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DOJ declines to pursue criminal charges against officers over Freddie Gray death

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced [press release] on Tuesday that it will be not pursue charges against the six Baltimore police officers for the death of Freddie Gray, finding there was insufficient evidence prove beyond a reasonable doubt that officers willfully violated federal civil rights. The DOJ conducted an independent investigation into Gray's death after Baltimore State's Attorney criminal charges against the officers were dismissed. The DOJ determined that the requirements of the relevant criminal statute, 18 USC § 242 [text], were not met, concluding that "although Gray's death is undeniably tragic, the evidence in this case is insufficient to meet these substantial evidentiary requirements ... and for the reasons explained ... this matter is not a prosecutable violation of the federal civil rights statutes." The DOJ further concluded that the officers had probable cause to arrest and search Gray after he made eye contact with one the officers and immediately fled in an area known for drug trafficking.

Gray's arrest and death led to widespread protests and civil disorder in the city of Baltimore. In May 2015 the state's attorney announced the indictment [JURIST report] of six police officers on charges including murder and manslaughter for his death, which took place while in police custody. After three acquittals, the charges were dropped [JURIST report] against the three remaining officers. Shortly after Gray's death, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] urged Baltimore police to exercise restraint [JURIST report] during protests, prioritize non-violent means and limit the use of force. Also in 2015, amidst national concern about police behavior, the DOJ announced a $20 million body camera grant [press release] program that includes training, technical assistance and evaluation to accompany $17 million for local law enforcement agencies to purchase body-worn cameras. Then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch said, "Body-worn cameras hold tremendous promise for enhancing transparency, promoting accountability, and advancing public safety for law enforcement officers and the communities they serve."

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