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US Justice Department will not charge officers in Freddie Gray death

Though the department called Gray's death "undeniably tragic", they said evidence was "insufficient" to convict them

The US Justice Department said it will not pursue charges against six Baltimore police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray. This picture, taken on June 23, 2016, shows a mural depicting Gray in Baltimore at the intersection where he was arrested. Patrick Semansky / The Associated Press
The US Justice Department said it will not pursue charges against six Baltimore police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray. This picture, taken on June 23, 2016, shows a mural depicting Gray in Baltimore at the intersection where he was arrested. Patrick Semansky / The Associated Press

The US Justice Department will not pursue charges against six Baltimore police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray, a young black man whose fatal injury in custody ignited mass protests.

The DOJ announced in a statement it had found "insufficient evidence to support federal criminal civil rights charges" against the six officers, who all emerged from the high-profile case without convictions.

Though the department called Gray's death "undeniably tragic", they said evidence was "insufficient" to convict them on the basis of violating his civil rights, a high legal bar.

The 25-year-old suffered a severed spine while being transported in the back of a police van — unsecured and with his hands and feet bound — after being arrested on April 12, 2015 while fleeing police.

He died a week later. Police said his death was an accident.

"To the extent that the officers violated department policy in failing to seat belt Gray, those failures suggest civil negligence rather than the high standard of deliberate indifference," the DOJ said, explaining its decision.

In attempts by state prosecutors to hold the officers criminally responsible for Gray's death, three officers were acquitted by a judge — despite murder, assault, manslaughter and endangerment charges.

A fourth case initially ended in a hung jury. In July 2016 prosecutors there dropped all remaining charges in the police brutality case that provoked unrest in Baltimore — an east coast city troubled by crime, poverty and segregation problems.

The situation mirrored nationwide outcry in recent years over the spate of deaths of other unarmed black people at the hands of police across the country.

Gray's death prompted the launch of a 14-month DOJ investigation into the Baltimore Police Department, which concluded that officers had disproportionately and illegally stopped, searched and arrested black people for years.

A federal judge then approved a consent decree mandating Baltimore's police department implement sweeping reforms.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April blasted that agreement, saying it would lead to more crime.