Nero wasn't involved in Gray's arrest, defense lawyer says

Friday, May 13, 2016

BALTIMORE -- Prosecutors said Edward Nero, whose trial in the arrest and subsequent death of Freddie Gray began Thursday in Baltimore, failed in his duty when he and other officers unlawfully arrested Gray, then neglected to buckle the shackled man's seat belt.

But defense attorney Marc Zayon told Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams that Nero, a volunteer firefighter with a passion for helping others, wasn't involved in Gray's arrest, and the officer's first physical contact with Gray was to help him look for an inhaler he'd been asking for after he already had been placed in handcuffs.

Ultimately, a judge will decide which version of the story is true.

Nero faces assault and misconduct in office charges stemming from the arrest and a reckless endangerment charge for not buckling Gray into a seat belt, as required by departmental policy. Earlier this week, Nero opted for a bench trial rather than trial by jury.

Gray died April 19, 2015, a week after his neck was broken in the police wagon.

Nero was on bike patrol with the other officers, Lt. Brian Rice and officer Garrett Miller, when Gray made eye contact with Rice and fled. Rice put out a call he was involved in a chase, and Miller and Nero joined the effort. The officers caught up with Gray, and he was arrested.

On Thursday, Chief Deputy State's Attorney Michael Schatzow said the officers would have been permitted to stop and detain Gray briefly if they had reasonable suspicion he was doing something illegal -- an act known as a "Terry stop." But Miller, Nero and Rice didn't frisk Gray to determine whether he was armed -- a necessary step under the rules governing Terry stops -- before searching and arresting him.

"There was no frisk when he was originally taken down," Schatzow said. "During this time, they do nothing that Terry requires, and they do a search that Terry does allow."

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