Baltimore officer William Porter had five chances to help Freddie Gray. Again and again, prosecutors said, he failed to call for paramedics or buckle Gray into a police van, actions they said would have prevented the 25-year-old's death from a spinal injury. As Porter’s trial began, the Washington Post reports, Porter's attorney said the officer lifted Gray from the floor of the police wagon onto a seat and asked him if he needed medical help. Gray had a reputation of feigning injury to avoid arrest, and Porter thought that he was yelling and acting out because he didn't want to go to jail, not because he had been seriously hurt while being driven to by police. Prosecutors and defense attorneys yesterday laid out sharply differing narratives of the events that led to the young man's death and set the city aflame in April. Which account jurors ultimately believe is at the heart of the case.
Was Porter so indifferent and negligent that his actions amount to involuntary manslaughter? Or was Gray's death a tragedy but not a crime? Prosecutor Michael Schatzow said Gray probably struck his head when the van was in motion. Gray's neck was broken as if he dived into a shallow pool, Schatzow said. The prosecutor described Porter as callous, saying his failure to buckle in Gray or call for help showed that he simply “didn't care.” Porter's attorneys insisted that the officer did what any other officer would have done with Gray, who they said initially showed no signs of injury. They painted a portrait of an officer who cared about the residents in the neighborhood where he patrolled and grew up. Porter, 26, has never fired his gun and has no major blemishes on his record. They said many officers did not routinely buckle up people in custody in police wagons and that Porter didn't know about a recent policy change mandating such restraints. Porter “didn't become a police officer to swing a big stick,” Gary Proctor, an attorney for the officer, said. “He became a police officer to help people.”