A Baltimore police officer charged in the death of a black detainee was criminally negligent when he failed to secure him in the back of a police van and get medical aid when he asked for it, a prosecutor said during closing arguments on Monday.
Prosecutor Janice Bledsoe told jurors that Officer William Porter, 26, could have prevented the death of Freddie Gray in April by buckling him into a seat belt and calling for an ambulance when Gray said he needed help.
Gray died of a spinal injury. His death triggered rioting, arson and protests in the largely black city. Porter is the first of six officers, three of them black, facing trial.
“Click – how long does it take to click a seat belt and click a radio and ask for a medic? Two seconds? Three seconds? Maybe four?” Bledsoe asked jurors while holding a seatbelt.
“Is two, three or maybe four seconds worth a life?”
Porter faces charges of involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in Gray’s death. The charges against the others range from second-degree murder for van driver Officer Caesar Goodson to misconduct in office.
Gray, 25, was arrested after fleeing from police. He was put in a transport van, shackled and handcuffed, but he was not secured by a seat belt.
Porter, who is black, was a backup officer and present at five of six stops the van made with Gray inside. At the fourth stop Gray told Porter he needed medical aid and Porter helped him onto a van bench.
According to testimony, Porter told Goodson and Sergeant Alicia White that Gray had asked for aid, but none was summoned.
Prosecutors have sought to show that Porter ignored Gray’s pleas and failed to put a seat belt on him, in violation of department procedures.
Defense lawyers have argued that Porter acted responsibly by passing on Gray’s request for aid to Goodson and White.
Law enforcement experts and Baltimore officers have testified that detainees were routinely transported in vans without being buckled in place.
To prove that Porter committed involuntary manslaughter, his attorneys have said, prosecutors must show that his conduct differed widely from what an officer reasonably would have done.
Baltimore agreed in September to pay Gray’s family a $6.4 million civil settlement.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Police Commissioner Kevin Davis have urged calm regardless of the jury’s verdict.
(Editing by Dan Grebler)