The district attorney in the Minneapolis county where George Floyd, a black man, died after a white police officer was seen on camera kneeling on his neck while he was in custody, says he won’t rush to judgment and likened the situation to Baltimore and the Freddie Gray case.
“I will just point to you the comparison to what happened in Baltimore and the Gray case,” Hennepin County District Attorney Mike Freeman said Thursday. “There was a rush to charge, it was a rush to justice, and all of those people were found not guilty. I will not rush to justice. I’m going to do this right. And those folks who know me in the African [American] community know I will do my very level best. But I will not rush justice, because justice cannot be rushed.”
In 2015, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby brought forth criminal charges against six Baltimore police officers involved in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray, who suffered injuries while in police custody. Three were acquitted of charges, and Mosby dropped remaining charges for the other three.
Mosby released a statement late Thursday night in response to Freeman’s comments.
“For Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman to use my office to justify his inaction on the tragic and public killing of George Floyd is shameful,” Mosby said. "Saying that there was a ‘rush to charge, a rush to justice’ in the Freddie Gray case is demonstrably false.
“I stand by the decision I made 12 days after Freddie Gray was killed. I didn’t have video footage of a murder — evidence any prosecutor would dream of. Mr. Freeman needs to own his decisions and be courageous enough to decide whether or not to pursue justice for the murder of George Floyd.”
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey on Wednesday called for criminal charges to be brought against Derek Chauvin, who was captured on video on Monday with his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes as Floyd was handcuffed and said he could not breathe.
Chauvin and three other police officers who were present at the incident have been fired.
Ashiah Parker, CEO of the No Boundaries Coalition, an alliance of West Baltimore community groups, said she didn’t agree with Freeman’s characterization of Baltimore and the Gray case. Parker, who lives in the neighborhood where the unrest took place, said Mosby made the correct decision in bringing forth charges but urged Freeman to be slow and thorough in seeking convictions.
Parker said the looting in Minneapolis is the result of “misplaced anger" from people who may not know how to organize or use their voice properly.
“It breaks my heart to see that this is happening again. ... Living through Freddie Gray, your emotions are so high,” Parker said. “I wouldn’t even know what to tell those young men and women right now, because it is a tough situation.”
Five officers involved in Gray’s case faced internal administrative charges. Two pleaded guilty, two were acquitted by police trial boards and accepted punishment, and former Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis dropped remaining charges for the final officer.
Former police spokesman T.J. Smith, now a Democratic mayoral candidate, in 2017 said Davis “feels proceeding with this administrative hearing would not be in good faith, and has dismissed the charges.”
Davis did not return a request for comment Thursday night. Mike Mancuso, president of the Baltimore County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, the union that represents Baltimore police officers, also did not return a request for comment Thursday night.
Gray’s death prompted an investigation into the Baltimore Police Department by the Department of Justice, which found the department engaged in a pattern and practice of conduct that violates the First, Fourth, and 14th amendments, and certain provisions of federal statutory law.
Since 2017, the city has been under a court-enforceable agreement to resolve the Department of Justice’s findings.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI in Minneapolis said Thursday that they were conducting “a robust criminal investigation” into the death. President Donald Trump has said he had asked an investigation to be expedited.
The FBI is investigating whether Floyd’s civil rights were violated.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.