A disciplinary panel has found a Baltimore police van driver not guilty on all 21 administrative charges related to his transportation of Freddie Gray, a black man whose death in custody back in 2015 caused riots in the city.
The three-member board on Tuesday reportedly found that Officer Caesar Goodson did not violate any department policies the day Gray died, according to The Associated Press.
According to The Baltimore Sun, many of the charges related to the way Gray was transported. Goodson was accused of failing to ensure Gray’s safety in the back of the police van and failing to seek medical attention when Gray asked for it.
Gray had been handcuffed and his legs had been shackled when he was placed in the van after his April 12, 2015, arrest, but he wasn’t strapped into a seat belt. When the van arrived at the Baltimore police Western District station house, 25-year-old Gray was found in the back unconscious, with spinal injuries.
He died a week later.
Gray’s death was among a string of deaths of black men at the hands of police that helped feed the Black Lives Matter movement’s narrative that American police are engaged in a racist war against minorities.
But as with the shooting of street thug Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, and the death of illegal cigarette vendor Eric Garner in New York City, the Black Lives Matter narrative ran smack into a legal system built on finding facts. And the facts in the Freddie Gray cases hardly justified the days of rioting and destruction that erupted in Baltimore after the suspected drug dealer’s death.
Six officers faced criminal charges in the Gray case, and the prosecution’s case was so weak that none of them were convicted, according to The Baltimore Sun.
One of them was Goodson, who was acquitted of charges that included second-degree, depraved-heart murder in a criminal trial last year.
Later, five of the six officers were charged administratively in the case. Two of them have accepted “minor” punishments, the Sun reported. Two are still fighting their charges.
And Goodson was found “not guilty” of every accusation brought against him.
During the departmental trial, Goodson was called out by department lawyer Neil Duke for allegedly showing a lack of compassion for Gray. He claimed Goodson failed to check on Gray’s physical condition on the ride to the police station as he banged around the back of the van.
“It’s not a heavy duty to be placed on a police officer to exercise that level of compassion,” Duke said, according to The Associated Press.
However, Goodson’s lawyers argued that the department failed to distribute a policy change requiring seat belts for those arrested before the incident occurred.
They also said that outside investigators failed to seek out evidence that could have exonerated Goodson in the arrest and transport.
Reuters reported that Freddie Gray’s death led to court-ordered reforms of the police department.
Whether those reforms end up leading to greater trust and cooperation between the Baltimore Police Department and its largely black city remains to be seen. But one thing that is certain is that the riots that racked Baltimore after Gray’s death were more the results of Black Lives Matter agitation than deliberate criminal behavior by police officers — or even violations of department policies.
As now both criminal charges and administrative charges have been defeated by Goodson, it’s a reminder that there’s so much more to police incidents than rioters would have you believe.
This wasn’t the callous murder of a black man by a man dedicated to “institutional racism.”
It was a series of injuries gained during transport that may or may not have been caused or fostered by Freddie Gray injuring himself. And no amount of rioting could change what these men found when that police van arrived at the Wester District station house.
Unfortunately, we very well could see more rioting in Baltimore over this news.