Baltimore Braces For Verdict

Dec 15, 2015

Police staging in Druid Hill Park
Credit Mary Wiltenburg

The jurors in the trial of William Porter, the first of six Baltimore police officers to face charges in the death of Freddie Gray, went home Tuesday night after telling Judge Barry Williams they were deadlocked. Williams told them to come back and try again. Meanwhile, the city of Baltimore braced for the verdict.

Seventh District Congressman Elijah Cummings called for calm, regardless of the verdict. He said in a news conference the people of Baltimore would be on trial in the days and weeks ahead. Their actions will be judged by history, he said. He urged residents to respect whatever verdict the jury reaches.

"And our future as a more just community will depend more on our actions than it will upon the decision of Officer Porter’s jury," he added.

The Congressman said the system worked in the case of the officers charged in Gray’s death because they are being brought to trial. Cummings said all involved in the case--the prosecution, the defense, and the judge--have done their jobs.

"The verdict will have as much legitimacy as our society can provide," he said.

He said he was pleased to see ministers and activists out at Penn and North Monday night, the scene of rioting after Gray’s death in April, asking for peace. He also said he is pleased with Police Chief Kevin Davis’s efforts to meet with the community.

Meanwhile, police from neighboring jurisdictions staged in Druid Hill Park Tuesday in the event of unrest.

Adam Wyatt, construction manager at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, said he had a front row seat to a parade of more than two dozen vans, SUVs, and armored vehicles full of law enforcement officers streaming into the parking lot. He said he saw state police, a K9 unit and officers from Prince Georges, Anne Arundel and Harford counties.

There were "kind of bussed in almost," he said. "There’s more trucks; lots more."

Earlier in the day, photographer Devin Allen, whose images of last April’s unrest made the cover of Time, shot photos of some police in riot gear. By afternoon the riot gear had disappeared, but some officers still wore protective vests. Wyatt said he was struck by the contrast with what he saw in April.

"To tell you the truth, the presence now, as opposed to when we were actually having the riots, it seems greater, at least here anyhow, to me," he said. "Plus they seem more prepared.  I mean, they have armored cars up there and stuff. They did not have that before that I saw."