At The Heart Of The Freddie Gray Case, Six Officers Remain A Mystery
ARUN RATH, HOST:
The six Baltimore police officers charged over the death of Freddie Gray in police custody have asked a court to dismiss the case. They claim the prosecutor overreached her authority, an allegation the state's attorney general, Marilyn Mosby, has refuted. There's also a Justice Department investigation underway over Gray's death, but those six officers remain a mystery to most of us. NPR's Jeff Brady set out to learn more about them.
JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: Alicia White is the only woman among the six officers. She's a sergeant described as a church-going person and a rising star in the police department. And she's the only one of the six who lives in Baltimore City.
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BRADY: I'm at the address that we have for Alicia White. It's a townhouse. All the blinds are pulled. I went up, rang the doorbell, knocked on the door. No one answered. Around back, there's no car in the driveway. It appears there's no home. As I leave, there's an elderly man down the street dusting yellow pollen off his black Cadillac.
Hi, there. How are you doing?
WILBERT WALKER: Hi.
BRADY: His name is Wilbert Walker.
WALKER: I knew her growing up as a little girl.
BRADY: Oh, really?
BRADY: Here in this neighborhood?
WALKER: Lived right there.
BRADY: Walker says he worried about White's safety as a police officer, but he gladly gave her a reference when she was applying to the department. Walker says he's followed the Gray case closely.
WALKER: I was just shocked to see that she was one of the persons involved in this. I couldn't see her wanting to harm anyone.
BRADY: The most serious charges filed against White - involuntary manslaughter and second-degree assault - come with prison terms up to 10 years. The prosecutor says White should have done more to get Freddie Gray medical help. The only officer facing a murder charge is Caesar Goodson. He drove the police van in which prosecutors believe Gray was injured. Goodson also didn't respond to interview requests.
MINNIE MADISON: I just knew him as a - as a neighbor.
BRADY: Minnie Madison lives down the street from Goodson in this middle-class neighborhood of red brick houses.
MADISON: He's a basic good guy - easy-going - easy-going guy - quiet, nice guy - really nice.
BRADY: Goodson faces the charge of second-degree depraved heart murder. That means the prosecutor thinks that as the driver of that police van, Goodson acted with extreme recklessness. The charge carries a sentence up to 30 years. Without talking to any of these officers, it's difficult to know what kind of people they really are. Three of them are white and three are black.
Public records tell only part of their stories - homes bought, divorces filed, parents who died. We do know that the highest ranking officer, Lieutenant Brian Rice, faced past allegations of domestic abuse and making threats, but he wasn't convicted of a crime. Even in the Sandtown neighborhood where the officers worked, they are not well known.
NED WARD: That's whole reason why. That's why we're having so much problem. We don't have no interrelationship with cops no more. There's no Cop Friendly no more. It's Cop Beat Me Up.
BRADY: Ned Ward lives here and refers to the long-running Officer Friendly program designed to teach kids that police are their allies and not their enemies. Ward takes issue with the fact that all but one of the officers lives outside the city.
WARD: Cops that are out-of-state or out of another county shouldn't be cops in the city because I don't know you. And just like we didn't know what happened, we didn't know them. They probably don't even live in the city.
BRADY: All this criticism has police around the country coming to the officers' defense. A local Fraternal Order of Police website has the headline Blue Lives Matter and seeks to raise money for what they're calling the Baltimore Six. On Facebook, a fellow law enforcement officer, Doug Forrester, launched an ice bucket-style video challenge.
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DOUG FORRESTER: I'm here for the Baltimore Challenge to support the Baltimore Six, the Baltimore City Police Department and their families. I ask all my friends and family to join me in showing their support.
BRADY: Forrester then does six push-ups on a sidewalk, one for each officer charged. Jeff Brady, NPR News, Baltimore. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.