Daily Archives: May 1, 2015

Freddie Gray’s death ruled ‘homicide’, charges against all 6 officers involved

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby says there is “probable casue to file criminal charges in the Freddie Gray case” of officers involved in Gray’s arrest, who later died of injuries he sustained while in custody in Baltimore, Maryland

Maryland State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby announced criminal charges against all six police officers involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray, which she declared “a homicide” and “an illegal arrest.” Five of the officers have been arrested.

“The findings of our comprehensive, thorough and independent investigation, coupled with the medical examiner’s determination that Mr. Gray’s death was a homicide ‒ which we received today ‒ has led us to believe that we have probably cause to file criminal charges,” Mosby announced at a press conference on Friday morning.

“Warrants have been executed, and five officers are in custody,” Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake told reporters Friday afternoon.

“No one is above the law in our city. i was sickened and heartbroken at the reading of charges today,” the mayor said. “Justice must apply to all of us equally.”

After fleeing police on April 12, Gray was arrested and charged with carrying a switchblade knife, which is illegal in Baltimore City.

“The knife was not a switchblade and is lawful under Maryland law,” Mosby said, contradicting the charging documents.

Mosby said that Gray was not secured in the van with a seatbelt, which is against police regulations, and he was handcuffed and placed in leg irons. This led to his injuries, according to the investigation. During one of the stops police officers checked on Gray, saw that he was unresponsive, but failed to take any actions to assist him.

“The manner of death deemed a homicide by the Maryland state medical examiner is believed to be the result of a fatal injury that occurred while Mr. Gray was unrestrained by a seatbelt while in the custody of the Baltimore Police Department wagon,” Mosby said.

Officer Caesar Goodson, 45, who drove the van, is charged with second-degree depraved heart murder, involuntary manslaughter, second-degree negligent assault, manslaughter by vehicle by means of gross negligence, manslaughter by vehicle by means of criminal negligence, misconduct in office for failure to secure a prisoner, and failure to render aid.

Officer William Porter, 25, is being charged with involuntary manslaughter, assault in the second degree and misconduct in office.

Lieutenant Brian Rice, 41, who led the chase of Gray, is being charged with involuntary manslaughter, assault in the second degree, misconduct in office and false imprisonment.

Officers Edward Nero, 29, and Garrett Miller, 26, are being charged with assault in the second degree ‒ intentional; assault in the second degree ‒ negligent; misconduct in office; and false imprisonment.

Sergeant Alicia White, 30, is being charged with involuntary manslaughter, second degree assault and misconduct in office.

“A warrant has been issued for their arrests,” Mosby told reporters. “We filed the statement of charges this morning at about 9:30, 10 o’clock this morning.”

She would not comment on whether any of the officers had been arrested yet.

“While I am committed to transparency, what I have revealed here today is now a matter of public record. However, the evidence that we have collected and continue to collect cannot ethically be released to the public,” Mosby said when she finished reading the charges she had filed.

“I strongly condemn anyone in law enforcement with access to trial evidence who has leaked information prior to the resolution of this case,” she added. “You are only damaging our ability to conduct a fair and impartial process for all parties involved.”

Mosby also called for calm in Baltimore of the wake of her announcement.

“I heard your call for ‘no justice, no peace,” she said. “Your peace is sincerely needed as I work to deliver justice on behalf of this young man.”

Turkey’s Police Clash With Hundreds Defying Protest Ban On May Day

Protesters run and protect themselves as riot police use a water cannon against them during a May Day rally near Taksim Square in Istanbul on May 1, 2015

ISTANBUL, May 1 (Reuters) – Turkish police fired tear gas and water cannon at hundreds of stone-throwing May Day protesters on Friday, after they defied a ban and tried to march on Istanbul’s Taksim Square.

Europe’s biggest city was under a security lockdown as thousands of police manned barricades and closed streets to stop demonstrations at Taksim, a traditional rallying ground for leftists that saw weeks of unrest in 2013.

Riot police unleashed water cannon and chased protesters down side streets in the nearby Besiktas neighborhood and also they also fired off canisters of tear gas, a Reuters reporter said. Demonstrators lobbed stones and bottles at police and set off fireworks.

Istanbul police said nearly 140 people had been detained, although activists said the number was nearly double that. The city’s governor said 6 police officers and 18 protestors had been injured in clashes, which died out as the afternoon wore on and a clean-up operation got underway.

Critics say President Tayyip Erdogan and the government have become more authoritarian in the buildup to June elections.

“People want to express their problems but the government doesn’t want those problems to be heard ahead of elections,” opposition politician Mahmut Tanal, holding a pocket-sized book of the Turkish constitution, told Reuters in Besiktas.

Demonstrators try to protect themselves from water, sprayed by a police water canon truck and tear gas, during clashes in Istanbul, Turkey, May 1, 2015

A usually bustling square lined with cafes and hotels, Taksim was filled with police buses, ambulances and satellite broadcast trucks. A pair of tourists emerged from a hotel to find the area sealed off and nervously made their way around police lines.

Much of Istanbul’s public transport had been shut down due to security concerns, and police helicopters buzzed over the city. Tens of thousands also gathered to march in the capital Ankara, where the mood was more festive, with dancing and singing.

A woman reacts as Turkish police use water cannons and tear gas to disperse protesters during a May Day rally near Taksim Square in Istanbul on May 1, 2015

he government had said Taksim would only be open to those who came peacefully and not for “illegal demonstrations.”

“I wish May 1 to be celebrated in a festive mood without provocations,” Erdogan said in a statement.

Opposition parties and unions called on the government to lift the ban.

A protester kicks a tear gas canister during clashes with riot police during a May Day rally near Taksim Square in Istanbul on May 1, 2015

Erdogan has previously dismissed protesters as “riff-raff” and terrorists, outraged by the unrest in 2013 that brought unwanted international attention and posed the biggest challenge to his AK Party since it came to power in 2002.

Recent polls say AKP is on course for another election win in June but he may fall short of the massive victory Erdogan is targeting to allow him to change the constitution and bolster his presidential powers.

Demonstrators challenge riot police officers during clashes in Istanbul, Turkey, Friday, May 1, 2015.

he 2013 Taksim protests began as a peaceful demonstration against plans to redevelop Gezi Park, a leafy corner of the square. After a police crackdown the demonstration spiraled into weeks of nationwide protests against Erdogan’s rule.

U.S. Navy ships to accompany U.S.-flagged ships in Gulf

Helicopters fly from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt during a resupply mission with the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in the Gulf of Oman

Helicopters fly from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt during a resupply mission with the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in the Gulf of Oman

U.S. Navy ships will begin accompanying U.S. commercial ships during their transit through the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf to ensure they encounter no interference from Iran, U.S. defense officials said Thursday.

The new policy, which has not yet been announced officially, was adopted in response to what Washington views as provocative Iranian behavior. Earlier this week Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps naval vessels reportedly fired warning shots near a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship and have detained it and its crew.

Iran says it intervened with the Maersk Tigris because the Maersk shipping line owes it money awarded in a lawsuit.

Iranian naval patrol boats also surrounded a U.S. cargo vessel in the strait last Friday before departing without further incident. The Pentagon later said it considered the incident a provocation.

The strait is narrow and partially within Iranian territorial waters. Under an internationally recognized protocol called “innocent passage,” maritime traffic is permitted to pass through the strait without interference, even if ships at times are in Iranian territorial waters, so long as they are not violating strictures against such things as carrying weapons or collecting intelligence.

U.S. defense officials said the decision to begin accompanying U.S. commercial vessels as they transit the strait was based on a recommendation by U.S. Central Command, which is responsible for U.S. military operations in the Middle East.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter was briefed on the decision, one official said, adding that the Obama administration does not want the move to be seen as provocative, given the delicate state of the Iran nuclear agreement. The pact has yet to be finalized and is the subject of intense scrutiny and considerable criticism in Congress.

The officials were not authorized to discuss the decision publicly and spoke anonymously.

At an unrelated Pentagon news conference, Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove was asked about the decision and said he was aware of it. Breedlove, the top U.S. commander of NATO in Europe, said the Navy is well-practiced at protecting freedom of navigation in the Gulf.

“It is a mission they have done in the past,” he said.

The Navy makes a distinction between accompanying ships and escorting them, although the difference appears to be small. The officials said U.S. Navy ships will be present in and near the Strait of Hormuz while U.S. commercial vessels are in transit, but they will not escort them continuously.

The 5th Fleet, which is the naval arm of Central Command, currently has a destroyer, the USS Farragut, in the Gulf, as well as three smaller coastal patrol ships. No additional ships are being dispatched to the region, one official said.

U.S. Navy ships will be in continuous radio contact with the commercial ships and possibly will stay in visual contact during their transit of the strait, the officials said. The U.S. commercial shipping companies will be notified in advance of these new procedures.

One official said the new approach will be reviewed daily, taking into account Iranian behavior.

The circumstances of Iran’s seizure earlier this week of the MV Maersk Tigris remain unclear. A spokesman for the Danish shipper, Michael Storgaard, said the company learned Thursday that an Iranian appeals court had ruled the company must pay $3.6 million for a 10-container cargo delivered a decade ago on behalf of an Iranian company in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. However, the cargo never was collected, according to Storgaard, adding it eventually was disposed of by local authorities.

Storgaard said Copenhagen-based Maersk Line will “do everything we can to resolve this matter” with Iranian authorities.

He added the ship and crew aren’t theirs. MV Maersk Tigris, operated by Rickmers Ship Management in Singapore, was boarded on Tuesday.

​China, Russia to hold first-ever Mediterranean naval exercise

ARCHIVE PHOTO: Chinese and Russian naval vessels are seen during Joint Sea-2014 naval exercise outside Shanghai on the East China Sea, May 23, 2014

The Russian and Chinese Navies are to hold a joint exercise in the Mediterranean Sea in mid-May, a first in that part of the world. A total of nine warships from the two countries are to participate, Beijing said.

“The aim is to deepen both countries’ friendly and practical cooperation, and increase our navies’ ability to jointly deal with maritime security threats,” Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said on Thursday in a monthly news briefing.

“What needs saying is that these exercises are not aimed at any third party and have nothing to do with the regional situation,” he added, saying that the Chinese Navy would contribute its warships currently on an anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden.

Russia and China have previously held joint naval exercises in the Pacific in waters they both have direct access to. The Mediterranean Sea Cooperation-2015 drill would focus on navigation safety, at-sea replenishment, escort missions and live fire exercises, Geng said.

Moscow and Beijing are intensifying defense cooperation as both countries oppose US criticism of its military policies. China is being accused of aggressive deployments in the South China Sea, where it is contesting territories with several regional nations. The PLA’s Navy and Air Force have been increasingly at odds with Japan and South Korea, key American allies.

Russia has been subjected to economic sanctions over its position in Ukraine which, according to Washington, is threatening its NATO allies in Eastern Europe.