BALTIMORE– Training was the focus Tuesday in the trial of Baltimore police officer Edward Nero, one of six officers accused in the death of Freddie Gray.
The defense is expected to conclude Wednesday and closing arguments are set for the next day, Judge Barry Williams announced from the bench at the conclusion of testimony Tuesday.
Nero faces charges including second-degree intentional assault, two counts of misconduct in office and reckless endangerment related to the April 2015 arrest and subsequent death of Gray.
The prosecution says Nero participated in stopping Gray without the necessary probable cause and didn’t put a seat belt on him when he was placed in a transport van, leading to his death.
On Tuesday, the defense called to the stand three officers involved in training Nero.
Sgt. Robert Hines, who taught Nero in a bicycle training course at the police academy, testified bike officers must avoid using their radios at times to prevent losing control and wrecking.
The state argued Nero, who was on a police mountain bike, didn’t ask for details when a fellow bike officer radioed he was chasing two suspects, one of which later turned out to be Gray. Stopping him, prosecutors argue, was illegal because officers didn’t have or ask for details as to why he was being pursued.
Michelle Martin, who did legal training for Baltimore Police when Nero was a recruit, described a “tarry stop,” in which officers can briefly take a suspect into custody to confirm or dispel reasonable suspicion. On cross examination she acknowledged that during such a stop officers should diligently pursue the purpose of the stop.
Hines was among three officers who testified Tuesday that they never instructed Nero to put seat belts on prisoners in transport vans. “I’ve never seen that section demonstrated on a van,” he told defense attorney Marc Zayon.
Sgt. Warren Stevens, who described himself as a mentor to Nero, and conducted on the job training with him, says he never taught Nero to seat belt prisoners in vans.
Stevens also testified he did not read aloud at roll call a police department general order issued just days before Gray’s arrest that required, among other things, that officers seat belt prisoners.
The prosecution argued Nero received an email about the order, and knew about a similar order in place for years that also required seat belting in most circumstances.
Nero’s field training officer, Sgt. Charles Sullivan, who worked with him before he graduated from the academy, says he also never taught Nero how to seat belt passengers in vans, and never initialed the training form that Nero performed or reviewed transporting prisoners. Sullivan agreed with an earlier prosecution witness that training was marked “reviewed” by a coordinator simply to allow Nero to move on, not to indicate he actually went over the material.
Nero opted for a bench trial, so the judge will ultimately decide on his guilt or innocence.
Five more officers have cases on the docket. The next officer to be tried is the van driver, Caesar Goodson, whose case is set to go to trial June 6.