The Baltimore Police Department (BPD) officer who was driving the day Freddie Gray’s spine was fatally injured was found not guilty of the 21 administrative charges leveled against him, including neglecting his duty and making false statements to investigators. Caesar Goodson Jr., 48, is free to continue working on the force.
In April 2015, six BPD officers violently arrested Gray, put him in handcuffs and placed him in a police van without properly securing him. He suffered injuries to his spinal cord during the “rough ride” that lead to his death in police custody days later. Goodson was driving the van, and he is the one who failed to put the Black 25-year-old in a seatbelt. He also did not call for medical help when Gray asked for assistance.
Goodson’s case was considered by three police officers who voted unanimously yesterday (November 7) to clear the charges. If he had been found guilty, he could have faced termination from his position. He was previously acquitted of second-degree depraved-heart murder in a criminal trial.
“This is a vindication of this officer,” Sean Malone, one of Goodson’s attorneys, said following the verdict, according to The Baltimore Sun. “This is a tragic accident that happened, and we’re sorry for the loss of Mr. Gray. But we’re glad that our client is not going to be the face of this incident.”
Gray’s family declined to comment. From The Baltimore Sun: “Attorney Hassan Murphy has said the family is fatigued by the many legal proceedings in the case and doesn’t wish to speak to the media about it anymore.”
But Monique Dixon, deputy director of policy and senior counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, had plenty to say in a statement:
Freddie Gray was conscious and verbal when officers placed him in Officer Goodson’s van; he was unconscious and had a severed spine when medical personnel took him out. Yet, the administrative trial board found that Officer Goodson did not violate a single departmental policy. It is appalling, yet predictable given the composition of the trial board. As long as the city lets law enforcement police themselves in lieu of meaningful civilian oversight, these proceedings will not result in accountability and will fail to strengthen community trust.
Two additional officers—Lieutenant Brian Rice and Sergeant Alicia White—still face administrative charges in the case. All six officers were cleared on criminal charges in 2016, and the Department of Justice opted not to persue charges earlier this year.