A judge in Baltimore Monday acquitted the highest-ranking officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray, marking the fourth trial that prosecutors failed to win.
Lt. Brian Rice faced charges of involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office. He opted for a bench trial by Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams.
The judge previously dismissed a second-degree assault charge, and prosecutors dropped a second misconduct charge against the 42-year-old officer, who is white.
Gray died a week after suffering a spinal injury in a police van last year, touching off protests and rioting.
Rice’s failure to seatbelt Gray, Williams said, may have been an error in judgment and a violation of updated policy — but the judge found prosecutors failed to prove it rose to a criminal level.
“The state failed to show that the defendant, even if he was aware of the risk, consciously disregarded that risk,” the judge said.
Three earlier trials resulted in two acquittals and a mistrial.
Officers Caesar Goodson and Edward Nero — both of whom were found not guilty in bench trials — were also present at the courthouse.
Gray was arrested after he ran from police officers in a high-crime area of the city. He was handcuffed and later shackled in the back of the police van, but officers never buckled him in.
Prosecutors had said Rice was most responsible of the six officers charged for following police procedures to fasten a prisoner in a seat belt, citing his 18 years of experience on the force.