Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby arrived at the Gilmor Homes vanquished, her office announcing earlier in the morning that the charges against the remaining officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray would be dropped.
But she received a hero's welcome in Sandtown, where Gray lived, as she emerged from a black SUV to applause from the dozens of residents who had gathered around the media scrum awaiting Mosby's press conference.
"We love you," one woman yelled as Mosby approached the lectern placed on the Presbury Street sidewalk. "The citizens of Baltimore City, we got your back."
"We know they forced your hand, we know they forced your hand," another said.
A few people began chanting, "We're with you!"
The second woman continued: "We know they forced your hand, and the judge was paid off. We know it."
Mosby would only be reading a statement—she could not take any questions, a spokeswoman explained, because of the pending civil lawsuits brought by the same officers charged with Gray's death.
"Baltimore finds itself at the epicenter of a national conflict between urban and rural populations of color and the law enforcement agencies that are sworn to protect and serve them," Mosby began. "It is a struggle that strikes at the basic ideas of self-determination, justice, equality, and sadly, humanity in America."
Her tone was just as forceful and assured as it was on May 1, 2015, when she appeared before cameras to announce charges against officers Caesar Goodson Jr., William Porter, Edward Nero, Garrett Miller, Lt. Brian Rice, and Sgt. Alicia D. White. None of these police officers will be facing time for Gray's death, but Mosby was not here to back off her actions.
"My professional role in this matter is plain: to seek justice on behalf of an innocent 25-year-old man who was unreasonably taken into custody after fleeing in his neighborhood, which just happens to be a high-crime neighborhood, and had his spine partially severed in the back of a Baltimore police wagon," she said. "As the chief prosecutor for Baltimore City, I took an oath to uphold justice and treat every individual within my jurisdiction equally and fairly under the law."
She went on to defend her record, citing past cases where her office secured convictions, and answer her critics.
"There are those that believe I'm anti-police—that's simply not the case. I'm anti-police brutality."
The residents cheered.
She defended her office and said her staff had been "physically and professionally threatened, mocked, ridiculed... and even sued," but couldn't speak to defend themselves because of a gag order placed by Judge Barry Williams.
"I was elected to prosecute," she said. "I signed up for this, and I can take it."
"That's right!" and "There you go, there you go" residents shouted.
Appearing at Mosby's side were Gray's mother, Gloria Darden, and stepfather, Richard Shipley. She turned toward them—to take a shot at the media's coverage of "everything but the untimely death of your son" and tell them, "My office has never wavered in our commitment to seeking justice on his behalf."
She then excoriated the Baltimore Police Department for its unwillingness to comply with the investigation of itself and their "counter-investigation to disprove the state's case."
"We've all bore witness to an inherent bias that is a direct result of when police police themselves," she said.
Defending her decision to bring charges against the officers, Mosby said the charges stood up to the test of a grand jury, motions hearings, and repeated calls from the defense that they should be dropped.
But the likelihood of the remaining officers choosing a bench trial, as the three acquitted officers did, is "highly probable, and unfortunately so is the outcome."
"You did the right thing," a woman said.
"No matter how much we may disagree with these rulings, we do not believe Freddie Gray killed himself," Mosby said to huge applause.
Even so, the lack of communal oversight of policing and reforms to the criminal justice system means: "We could try this case 100 times, and cases just like it, and we will still end up with the same result."
There were a few things that she saw as gains "that ensure what happened to Freddie Gray never happens to another person." Namely, body cameras, cameras in the back of transport vehicles, rules that require officers to seat belt detainees and call for medics upon request (though her own attorneys argued throughout the trials that these were always policy), new software that makes officers acknowledge new departmental policies, and a supposed shift toward de-escalation by the BPD.
Mosby closed by pledging to continue to fight for reform and justice. And once she was done, she got back into the black SUV and drove off. The people who had been watching clapped their hands.
Reporters stayed around to talk to residents, and at one point, a crowd of photographers gathered around Gray's mother as she received hugs from community members and the State's Attorney's Office's chief of external affairs, Tammy Brown.
"Love on this woman, that's her son," one woman yelled as the scene unfolded. (Brandon Weigel)
Perhaps Gene Ryan just has Resting Gloat Face, but the President of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3 looked pretty happy when he walked down the stairs of the lodge Wednesday and past all the cameras to stand with the six officers and the team of lawyers that helped them beat all of the charges brought against them in the Freddie Gray case.
"On behalf of the members of Baltimore City Lodge Number 3, we are pleased that criminal charges against officer Miller, Porter, and Sgt. White have be dismissed," he said. "Justice has been done."
He said the claims Mosby made that individual police officers had thwarted the investigation were "outrageous and uncalled for, and simply not true."
But after the verdict in the trial of Caesar Goodson, Gene Ryan—or whoever runs the FOP social media game—sent out a tweet with a photo of Leonardo DiCaprio holding up a martini glass and congratulating Caesar Goodson, the legal team, and Detective Dawnyell Taylor, who prosecutors had just accused of "sabotaging the case."
Taylor's testimony dramatically laid bare the rift that this trial has created between prosecutors and police in Baltimore City.
"You're aware you were removed from the investigation at my request when I accused you of sabotaging the investigation?" Chief Deputy State's Attorney Michael Schatzow asked Taylor in court.
"I'm aware you made the request, but you don't have the authority to remove me," Taylor answered. She then questioned the integrity of prosecutor Janice Bledsoe. "She made some allegations about your integrity," Schatzow shot back.
But during the press conference, Ryan assured the scrum of media crouching on the floor that "the detectives assigned to the case conducted a very thorough investigation into the tragic death of Freddie Gray" and insisted that "the state's attorney simply could not accept the evidence that was presented."
The defense team dropped a couple other bits of new information. "On review of the facts, we were able to learn that Mr. Gray and his friends were out on the corners of the Gilmor Homes on that day, that according to one of Mr. Gray's own friends that they were ready to re-up and sell drugs, that this friend yelled 'police,' and at that point in time we saw the story begin to unfold," said Ivan Bates, the attorney for Sgt. Alicia White, who spoke for the entire team.
The version of the story told in court was that Gray and his two friends were simply walking up to North Avenue for coffee when Gray started running.
Before the case went to trial, we heard a great deal about the knife that was allegedly discovered on Gray after he was arrested. The prosecution said it was a legal knife and the defense said it was illegal—the difference amounting to whether it was spring loaded or not. But the issue was never determined because the knife was never once mentioned in court and, with the gag order lifted, Bates took an opportunity to bring it back into the discussion.
"During the discovery process we were able to find out that the current State's Attorney for Baltimore City was prosecuting 30 young black men for having the same exact knife in the same exact time period," Bates said. "Why would you tell the community that that knife is in fact legal when you're prosecuting others and telling them that it is illegal?"
But in another press conference Thursday, Schatzow said that an assistant state's attorney went to police headquarters and "came back with this photograph of an advertisement in the police headquarters, they were advertising, with a BPD insignia on it, the very knife that Freddie Gray had on his possession."
If the dueling press conferences in the immediate wake of the lifting of the gag order are any indication, both sides will continue to adjudicate the case in the court of public opinion. (Baynard Woods)