From Freddie Gray's neighborhood and beyond, bewilderment follows dropping of charges

From Freddie Gray's neighborhood and beyond, bewilderment that no officers will be convicted in his death.

From the neighborhood that bookended Freddie Gray's short life, there was a certain weary disappointment. From the presidential campaign trails, there came both disdain and dismay.

Whether State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby's decision to drop all remaining charges against Baltimore police officers in the April 2015 police-custody death of Gray was to be rued or welcomed reflected a divide as wide as it was predictable.

"Nobody is getting punished for it," lamented Medina Gaither, 54, a resident of Gilmor Homes who said she had known Gray since he was a little boy.

Mosby closed the book Wednesday on the prosecution of six Baltimore officers. Three had already been acquitted, and she announced she would not pursue charges against the remaining three.

Befitting a case that became part of a heated and continuing national discourse on police-involved deaths of young black men, the reaction came swiftly even beyond Baltimore.

"I think [Mosby] ought to prosecute herself," Donald J. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, said at a news conference in Florida. "She should be held accountable. … I think she is a disgrace to the world of prosecutors for what she did."

Both political conventions — the Democratic gathering in Philadelphia and last week's Republican event in Cleveland — addressed the issue, in decidedly contrasting ways. Last week, the GOP attendees loudly cheered the acquittal of one Baltimore officer, whose trial ended as they were meeting, while on Tuesday, women whose children were killed in police encounters spoke to sympathetic Democratic conventioneers.

It was a "heart-wrenching" presentation, said state Sen. Catherine Pugh, the Democratic nominee for mayor, who has been at her party's convention this week.

"When you see what's happening across the nation, every situation presents a moment of reflection," she said.

"Baltimore does not want to experience a situation like this again with Freddie Gray," she said. "No family should have to go through this again."

Joshua Harris, the Green Party nominee for mayor, said the decision reflects "business as usual in the city."

"This is 15 months after the death of Freddie Gray, and there is still no justice," Harris said.

Others expressed gratitude that the trials against the officers, which would have continued into the coming months, were over. With each acquittal, calls grew louder for Mosby to cut her losses.

"Justice has been done," Gene Ryan, president of FOP Lodge 3 police union, said Wednesday.

Police Commissioner Kevin Davis lauded Mosby's "thoughtful" and "wise" decision to drop the remaining charges, but he took issue with her assertion that police can't investigate their own role in Gray's death.

"As the quality of this investigation has been called into question, I want to remind our residents that over 30 ethical, experienced, and talented detectives worked tirelessly to uncover facts," Davis said in a statement. "They are more than willing to hold persons who commit crimes accountable for their actions."

One of the officers' defense attorneys, Ivan Bates, said the charges reflected what Mosby "wanted the evidence to be."

Baltimore continues to wrestle with issues raised by Gray's death. First among them is the often-strained relationship between police and residents in neighborhoods such as Gray's.

Russell White, 52, kept repeating one phrase on Wednesday: "Crazy."

"No one is going to be held accountable," the Penn-North resident said. "It's crazy. How are you going to kill somebody and act like nothing happened?"

The ACLU of Maryland termed it "a travesty" that no police officer would be held responsible for Gray's death. The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund expressed outrage.

"One thing is undisputed: When police placed Mr. Gray into the van he was conscious," Sherrilyn Ifill, the fund's president, said in a statement. "When they removed Mr. Gray, he was unconscious and his spine was broken."

The Rev. Cortly "C.D." Witherspoon said Baltimore residents who are already frustrated with the criminal justice system are likely to feel even more that no one is listening to them.

"I think, inevitably, we will definitely see that people respond to that feeling of abandonment and that feeling of being forgotten about," he said. "I don't know how they will express that feeling and emotion. Certainly, we hope that will be in a constructive way."

Tawanda Jones, whose brother Tyrone West died during an altercation with police in 2013, said she wasn't surprised at the decision to drop the charges in the Gray case, given the acquittals of three officers.

She was one of a dozen activists who attended a City Council budget hearing Wednesday afternoon to protest an allocation of $26 million more than budgeted for police overtime. Jones took issue with policies that provide for paid leave for some officers who are suspended pending investigations into wrongdoing.

"I feel that no more money needs to be spent," Jones said. "It's not all police officers. But the ones who are brutalizing our constituents, they get a paid vacation."

Toya Graham gained national attention last year when she was captured on video berating and smacking a son who was joining in April's rock-throwing at police after Gray's funeral. On Wednesday, Graham attended Mosby's news conference outside Gilmor Homes, where Gray was arrested..

"I'm not surprised, but I am disappointed and hurt to know nothing has been done and this child has lost his life," said Graham, 44. "Mosby has said from the beginning she heard us, and for that alone, she did her job."

Tessa Hill-Aston, president of the city's NAACP chapter, said she was "very disappointed."

"The police in the courtroom were found not guilty," she said. "But someone and all of them are guilty because Freddie is deceased."

Still, Hill-Aston said, she is heartened by policy changes catalyzed by Gray's death, such as equipping police vans and officers with cameras.

For some, change can come — and already has — only from outside the court system. Some activists are continuing to work on changes, such as adding civilians to trial boards that discipline police officers.

Mike Cornish, 29, who lives in the Druid Hill area, says he sees more unity among neighbors and more interest in political change among youths.

"The good thing is that we're aware," Cornish said. "But the bad thing is having someone who's 'woke' but don't know what to do."

Dominic Nell, 39, said his grass-roots work gives him hope for the kind of change he wished the trials had brought.

He worked on a project at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum called "BMORE Than the Story," in which community members sought to give their own narratives in the wake of media coverage of last year's unrest.

"I just want Freddie Gray to rest in peace," Nell said. "But I don't necessarily want him to die in vain."

Baltimore Sun reporters Jessica Anderson, Yvonne Wenger, Pamela Wood, Wyatt Massey, Andrew Dunn, John Fritze, Luke Broadwater and Jesse Coburn contributed to this article.

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