WASHINGTON DC —
A Baltimore judge has acquitted the highest-ranking police officer charged in the death of black detainee Freddie Gray who died in April 2015 in the back of a police van.
The case against police officer Brian Rice focused on the question of whether he should have put a seat belt on Freddie Gray, who suffered a spinal injury during the van ride.
Prosecutors argue the decision by Rice not to secure Gray was an intentional act and should be considered criminal. Defense lawyers say Rice had to make a quick decision about whether or not to belt Gray, who they say was uncooperative and was trying to violently rock the van.
Police bound Gray's hands and feet in the van but did not secure him with safety belts.
Gray's death in the van sparked the worst riots in decades in Baltimore, Maryland, and sparked a national debate about the police treatment of minorities. That debate again came to the forefront this month with the deaths of two black men who were shot by police in Minnesota and Louisiana.
Rice was charged with manslaughter, reckless endangerment and misconduct. He is the fourth officer to be tried in the death of Freddie Gray.
Two other officers have been acquitted and the trial of a third officer ended in a hung jury. One of the officers who was acquitted was the driver of the van, Caesar Goodson, who faced the most serious charges, including "depraved-heart" murder.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters