Indictments in Freddie Gray case 'a step toward justice'

“It's a good thing, but I'll feel better when they get convicted.”

Some Baltimore residents who took to the streets demanding justice in Freddie Gray's death welcomed — but hesitated to celebrate — the indictments announced Thursday of all six officers involved.

Kiona Mack, 25, who took one of the viral cellphone videos of Gray being loaded into the back of the police van, called the indictments "one step further to justice."

"It's a good thing, but I'll feel better when they get convicted," Mack said. "I was happy when they got charged and I'm happy they got indicted, but we've still got a long way to go."

Gray, 25, died April 19, a week after suffering a severe spinal cord injury while in police custody. Baltimore's top prosecutor, State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby, announced charges May 1 against the six officers involved. The indictments announced Thursday moved the case forward into Baltimore Circuit Court.

The Rev. Heber Brown III, pastor of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church, who led one of several marches from the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood where Gray was arrested to City Hall, said "people are encouraged" by the step.

"It's welcome news," Brown said. "At the same time, it's not the time to schedule and plan victory parties."

Brown said city residents elected Mosby last fall to hold police accountable, which he credits her with doing. He added that the persistence of the family of Tyrone West, another Baltimore man who died after a police encounter, has "helped pave the way and lay the foundation for us being sensitized to police brutality."

"Kudos to the people of Baltimore for making police accountability a focus of attention," Brown said.

Kinji Scott, another local activist, said the indictment, like the charges, sends a "strong message" to the Police Department "that it will not be business as usual."

"I'm elated," Scott said. "I'm glad it happened. Some people had doubts it would happen."

Scott said Mosby surprised the community with the announcement Thursday afternoon, but he said word of the indictments will help keep the city calm. After more than a week of peaceful protests, riots broke out last month on the day of Gray's funeral, prompting the imposition of a curfew, a declaration of a state of emergency and the deployment of the National Guard.

Had the indictment not been handed up or the charges been dropped, Scott said, "it would've been all hell in Baltimore."

Scott is among those who claim to have noticed a "slowdown" in police responding to crime since the officers were charged in Gray's death. Commissioner Anthony W. Batts has acknowledged that officers have been taxed but said they have been diligently responding to calls.

"What's going to be the relationship between the police and the community going forward?" Scott asked.

United for Blue, an organization that marched in Annapolis to show support for police during the height of the unrest, declined to comment on the indictments but issued a short statement Thursday.

"United for Blue is an organization whose mission is to unite police officers in a positive way within the communities they serve," the statement said. "We also work with officers by showing support and appreciation for the hard work they do. At this time our nation should focus on the nine police officers that have died in the line of duty in the past three weeks."

A "March for BPD" event scheduled for May 30 at City Hall has 1,200 RSVPs on Facebook. The organizers could not be reached for comment Thursday night.

On Saturday, Mack will lead a "Bmore Peaceful" march from Sandtown-Winchester to City Hall for unity amid the recent spike in violence.

The march is unrelated to Gray's death, but Mack said she got lots of phone calls when the indictments were announced.

"I just feel like we do have a chance," she said. "Freddie will get justice."

City Councilman Brandon M. Scott, no relation to Kinji Scott, said he is working to explain the process to as many in the city as possible.

"I want folks to understand and remain level-headed. Indictments are indictments," said Brandon Scott, vice chairman of the council's Public Safety Committee. "If you are happy about the indictments, you can't be too happy. If you are angry, you can't be too angry or too upset. The facts will allow themselves to come out in court.

"This is not the end of the process. We're still at the beginning stages. It's not a victory or loss for anyone. It's one step toward justice."

Baltimore Sun reporter Yvonne Wenger contributed to this article.

cmcampbell@baltsun.com

twitter.com/cmcampbell6

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