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Freddie Gray's Mother Sobs in Court After Seeing Arrest Video

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    Freddie Gray's Mother Sobs in Court After Seeing Arrest Video
    Art Lien

    Freddie Gray's mother broke down in a Baltimore courtroom Thursday as cellphone videos of her son's arrest were shown during the trial of William Porter, the first officer to go on trial for Gray's death.

    Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams called for a recess, and Gray's mother, Gloria Darden, was escorted out by a woman who wrapped her arms around her. 

    Prosecutors showed two videos of Gray screaming as he was arrested and shackled. The 25-year-old died April 19, a week after prosecutors say he was injured in the back of a police van. His death was followed by days of unrest in Baltimore.

    The videos were shown during testimony by Brandon Ross, a longtime friend of Gray's who was with him on the morning of his arrest. 

    "We were like brothers," said Ross, 31, who also appeared to cry as he was excused for the break after the second video played.

    The two were walking to see someone about getting some carpentry and roofing work, Ross said. As they and a third person turned a corner, Gray suddenly started to walk fast and then ran. Ross said the next time he saw Gray moments later, he was with police.

    The first video, about two minutes long and taken by witness Kevin Moore, included the widely seen footage of Gray being dragged, screaming "ow!" repeatedly, by uniformed officers and lifted into the back of the prisoner transport van.

    Ross described officers picking Gray up off his knees while he was bound and putting him in the van.

    "Like he was hogtied," Ross said. 

    The second video, several minutes longer and taken by Ross himself, showed officers and Gray outside the van at a location where prosecutors say wrist and ankle restraints were applied before Gray was placed on the floor of the van instead of being belted in, as department policy requires.

    During the second video, a voice can be heard repeatedly shouting, "That's not cool!" and asking, "Can we get somebody else out here?" to help. Just before the end of the video, a voice yells, "You could hear him screaming."

    A woman was heard saying Gray was kicking inside the van. Ross said he heard noise inside the van but didn't see it shaking.

    Porter's defense contends Gray was hitting his head against the wall of the van, which they say caused his injury.

    The second video shows Porter arriving a few seconds before Gray was put in the van. He and Ross knew each other by name, and Ross told him he had recorded the incident and wanted to make a complaint. He was directed to a supervisor. Ross said he was told to take the video to the media.

    The defense asked Ross if Porter touched Gray at any point during the video, and Ross replied, "No."

    Jury Views Van That Transported Freddie Gray

    The jury viewed the police van earlier Thursday afternoon, though it was not introduced as evidence. Jurors asked no questions while viewing it, Judge Williams said. Members of the public and the media were not allowed to view the van.

    Before the viewing, Baltimore Police crime lab technician Jennifer Anderson testified she took photos of the van April 12 after Gray's transport, as the prosecution introduced Anderson's photos and report into evidence, but she said she wasn't asked to take any biological samples from the vehicle.

    Police Testify About Policy

    John Bilheimer -- a Baltimore police officer who worked as an instructor at the police academy -- testified that while officers often work together to ensure the safety of a person who has been arrested, it's primarily the responsibility of the driver to protect the person in the back of a transport van. Porter was not the driver.

    Bilheimer, who worked as an instructor at the academy for 10 years, said officers are trained to contact medics for injured detainees. 

    "We do not transport injured people. We contact medics," Bilheimer testified the training material said. 

    Prosecutors say Porter, 26, is partially responsible for Gray's death because he didn't buckle him with a seatbelt and failed to call a medic despite Gray's repeated requests for medical attention.

    Bilheimer, another witness for the state, said the police department does have rules about buckling in detainees and administering medical care. But during cross-examination, Bilheimer acknowledged that it is primarily the driver of the van who is responsible for the safety of a detainee.

    Baltimore Police Capt. Martin Bartness then spoke, testifying about police policy and procedure. The persons in police custody policy was updated April 3 by order of the police commissioner and included the words, "Members shall ensure the safety of the detainees ... including obtaining medical treatment."

    "Wouldn't it be fair to say that policy and procedure is not the Baltimore Police Department's top priority?" the defense said. "Catching bad guys is."

    Bartness testified that there were a lot of policy updates around that time, and persons in custody was one of six policies emailed to all members of the department April 9. Bartness said he is not aware of any procedure in which it could be confirmed Porter opened the policy update, which came in an 80-page attachment, the defense noted.

    Nor could Bartness say whether the new policy had been read at roll call before Gray was arrested. The defense also said the rescinding of the old policy from 1997 was "buried" on the 14th page. 

    The defense says Porter didn't read the new general orders in the three days between the email and the morning of Gray's arrest.

    The van driver, Caesar Goodson, faces the most serious charge in the case: second-degree "depraved-heart" murder. His trial will be next year.

    Porter is charged with assault, manslaughter, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office. He pleaded not guilty to charges that carry maximum prison terms totaling about 25 years.

    Opening Statements Delivered Wednesday

    On Wednesday, the defense argued that Porter was a good, but inexperienced, officer who had dealt with arrestees who faked injuries to avoid going to jail.

    Chief Deputy State's Attorney Michael Schatzow said Porter failed to call for a medic for Gray though Gray repeatedly asked for medical help.

    "The defendant could have helped him but did not help him," Schatzow said as members of Gray's family and State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby looked on.

    Prosecutors said videos show Gray was able to walk and speak before he was placed in the van.

    One video shows him lying on his stomach and lifting his head 4 to 5 inches off the ground, indicating his spine then was intact, Schatzow said.

    "When Mr. Gray went into the van, there was nothing wrong with his spine," he said.

    Gray was handcuffed and put into ankle shackles, and was not secured in a seat belt, though there were five seat belts in the compartment of the van where he was placed, the prosecutor said. His spinal cord was severed during the ride as the driver made a total of six stops, Schatzow said.

    "Help me get up. I can't get up," Gray reportedly said during one of the stops the van driver made during the 45-minute ride.

    The officer had received new guidance from Baltimore Police April 9 that went into effect April 12 saying all arrestees needed to be belted, without exception. Also, if the arrestee asks for medical help, officers must get them help.

    There was no reason to put him in without a seat belt "unless he simply didn't care," Schatzow said.

    Gray arrived at a police station unresponsive, was taken to a hospital and died a week later.

    Gray suffered a severe spinal cord injury while being transported in a police van April 12, authorities said. His injury sparked protests about police brutality that escalated to riots and arson after his death April 19.