Prosecutors grill Porter on discrepancies in testimony and statements

Prosecutors grill Porter on discrepancies in testimony and statements
Credit: Brandon Weigel

In afternoon proceedings, Deputy State's Attorney Michael Schatzow called Officer William Porter's reliability as a witness into question, drawing attention to what he characterized as discrepancies between Porter's testimony this morning and statements he gave to investigators at the time of Freddie Gray's death.

Schatzow drilled in on the fact that Porter had failed to identify by name shift commander Lt. Brian Rice as the officer who went in a transport van with Freddie Gray during a stop near Gilmor Homes, where Gray was put in ankle restraints.


In April, Porter had told investigators that he didn't know for certain which of two similarly-attired bicycle police was in the van. Schatzow asserted this was difficult to believe given that Porter was standing within a few feet of Rice at the time, and speculated as to whether Porter might have been attempting to "cover" for his superior officer.

Schatzow went so far as to ask whether there was a "stop snitching" culture within the Baltimore Police Department to match that prevalent in the West Baltimore streets that Porter once patrolled, drawing an angry response.

"Absolutely not. I'm actually offended that you would say that," Porter said.

Porter later told his own attorney on re-direct that he thought Schatzow was "contradicting himself" by calling the ethics of the department into question given how closely prosecutors generally work with the police.

The question was again raised if it was reasonable to expect Porter to have followed the letter of department regulations by seat-belting Gray in the transport van when, as the defense claims, it was not regularly, or almost ever, done by other patrol officers.

Prosecutors also raised a question that is almost certain to come up in later trials, which is why van driver Caesar Goodson stopped his van at one point on Druid Hill Avenue and Dolphin Street and requested Porter assist him in checking on Gray. Porter said he didn't ask and couldn't say why Goodson had done so.

Porter repeated claims he made earlier today that Gray was not seriously injured at any point prior to his arrival Western District headquarters. Porter said he was more motivated to tell other officers Gray needed to go to the hospital to save time, because Central Booking would not accept a prisoner who was asking for a doctor.

Schatzow also challenged an earlier statement by Porter that "to protect life" was "ingrained" in Baltimore's police officers.

"On April 12 you did not protect Freddie Gray's life, did you?" Schatzow asked.

"Untrue," Porter replied.

Testimony continued with Officer Zachary Novak, who was also working in the Western on the day Gray was arrested, and who was one of the first people to see Gray, unresponsive and not breathing, after he arrived at district headquarters.

In addition to relaying his own intersections with the path of the van transporting Gray that day, Novak reflected on what he characterized as the difficult conditions under which officers in the Western District work. He said that most days the department was too understaffed to respond to the district's high call volumes.

Novak was also the officer who had been assigned to meet Donta Allen, a potential police informant who had been put in the van with Gray after being taken into custody for drug possession. Novak said Allen faced a 17-year prison sentence as a result of the arrest, and had asked to be enrolled as a confidential informant.

The defense has indicated they may call Allen as a witness to testify concerning Gray's disposition later in the van ride.


Defense attorneys anticipated a challenge from prosecutors when they asked Novak whether he told Allen what to say concerning events in the van that day.

"Absolutely not," Novak said.