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Activists, police supporters unsurprised by Lt. Brian Rice acquittal

As Lee Patterson waited outside the Baltimore courthouse Monday for news of the verdict in the trial of Lt. Brian Rice, the activist made a prediction.

"Unfortunately, they're probably going to let him go, too," Patterson said. "Like all the rest."

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Soon after, word spread that Judge Barry G. Williams had acquitted Rice of all charges in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray —the fourth time that city prosecutors had failed to secure a conviction in the case.

"I'm disgusted," said Patterson, a member of the Peoples Power Assembly. "There's no justice for black people in America."

But like many across Baltimore, Patterson was not surprised. With three more trials scheduled, critics and supporters of the police agreed: They now doubt anyone will be found guilty.

The head of the Baltimore police union renewed his call for Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby to drop charges against the other officers accused in Gray's arrest and death.

"We again strongly urge Mrs. Mosby to stop her malicious prosecution against the remaining three officers," Lt. Gene Ryan, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, said at a news conference. "Based upon the evidence in previous trials, we are certain the remaining three officers will also be found not guilty."

Ryan had called for Mosby to drop charges after Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. was acquitted of all charges last month. Officer Edward Nero has also been acquitted.

Gov. Larry Hogan said it is up to prosecutors to decide whether to move forward, spokesman Douglass Mayer said, but he believes continuing with the trials would be a "waste of time and money."

Gray, 25, died in April 2015 after suffering a severe spinal cord injury in police custody. Mosby charged six officers with crimes ranging from misconduct in office to second-degree murder.

All have pleaded not guilty.

Sgt. Alicia White and Officer Garrett Miller are awaiting trial. Officer William Porter, whose trial last year ended in a mistrial, is scheduled to be retried.

Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said, "We remain resolute to work toward changing policing practices in Baltimore.

"After four trials there is still no accountability for the death of Freddie Gray in police custody," she said in a statement.

In West Baltimore, Linda May asked whether there was any point in prosecuting the remaining officers.

"They might as well go ahead and dismiss that, because they're going to get off, too," she said. "Save the taxpayers some money."

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May said Gray's death and the culpability of the officers involved was a regular topic of conversation on her block in the spring of 2015. Now, she rarely hears people discussing it.

"Nobody's saying anything, to tell you the truth," she said. "I think they just came to accept it."

Marshelle Lowery, who lives in the Gilmor Homes public housing complex, sat on steps across the street from the spot where Gray was arrested. Gray grew up in Gilmor Homes.

Lowery said she knew Gray and described him as respectful. She said the officers should have been punished for ignoring his calls for medical help.

Lowery said she believes none of the officers will be convicted — but she can't fathom the reason.

"I don't understand how the judge looked at it like that," Lowery said. "How did they say they did no wrong?"

Some elected officials asked for patience.

"This has been a very difficult time for our city, and I thank the community for their patience during this time and ask their continued respect for the judicial process as we move forward," Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in a statement.

Rawlings-Blake said Rice will now face an administrative review by the Police Department.

State Sen. Catherine Pugh, the Democratic nominee for mayor, urged residents to "continue to exercise patience and respect for the judicial process." She was a visible presence in the streets in the days of unrest following Gray's death.

"Even though there will be disagreements on this outcome," Pugh said in a statement, "we have an opportunity to continue the public dialogue around police and community interaction — it is not an easy conversation but a necessary one if we are to solve the longstanding problems that exist."

Imam Hassan A. Amin, a Baltimore police chaplain and an imam at the Johns Hopkins University, said the lack of convictions "really is going to put a strain on the relationship between the police and the community."

Still, he said, Rice "was acquitted because there wasn't enough evidence there."

"To me, it's fair," Amin said.

Lt. Col. Melvin Russell leads the Baltimore Police Department's Community Collaboration Division.

"Regardless of the outcomes of these charges," he said, "our focus is to heal our city, to bring both sides together.

"I don't feel like we've gone backwards," Russell said. "I think we're steady and we're progressing."

Outside the courthouse, demonstrator Arthur Johnson said the fact that prosecutors filed charges was cause for hope.

"Even though nothing was done at all, at least we're headed in the right direction," Johnson said.

Johnson said he began to doubt that any police officers would be convicted in the case after Goodson was acquitted last month.

"There's no new evidence and there's not a new judge," he said. "So how could you expect a new verdict?"

Roland Smith, a cabinetmaker in Sandtown-Winchester, said he has resigned himself to the notion that none of the officers will be convicted.

"The man did lose his life at the hands of police," Smith said. "Something happened. Somebody should be guilty of something. ... Everybody's getting off. Nobody's guilty of nothing.

"It's not fair," he added. "But I'm not surprised."

Baltimore Sun reporter Erin Cox contributed to this article.

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