A former Baltimore cop, now a Virginia police chief, said Thursday police Officer William Porter did everything he could to help 25-year-old Freddie Gray; continuing the defense argument that Porter does not bear responsibility for Gray’s April death from a broken neck.
Timothy Longo, police chief in Charlottesville, Va., testified as a consultant on police policy, training and safety.
He said general orders are “guiding principles” that set out the daily operations of a police department and that police officers make discretionary decisions every day.
Prosecutors say Porter – charged with involuntary manslaughter, assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office – violated a general order that required detainees to be placed in a seatbelt when being transported. He also failed to call for medical help for Gray.
Longo added that the van driver – Officer Caesar Goodson - was responsible for Gray because he was in the Goodson’s custody.
But on rapid-fire cross-examination by prosecutor Michael Schatzow, Longo said Porter could have gotten on the radio and called for a medic.
Schatzow also questioned how much danger Porter was in while helping Gray onto a bench in the van assuming Gray was calm, docile and not combative.
Longo told Schatzow Porter had to make a split-second decision and that he would have to explain why he went outside of the general order if asked.
University of Maryland Carey Law School Professor Doug Colbert said Longo’s testimony helped the defense.
“He painted Officer Porter as a reasonable police officer who took reasonable measures to help Freddie Gray,” he said.
The defense also called Washington, D.C. neurosurgeon Matthew Ammerman, who said Gray suffered a “catastrophic injury,” but disagreed with the state medical examiner, who said the injury took place between the van’s second stop at Mount & Baker streets and the fourth stop at Druid Hill Avenue and Dolphin Street.
Ammerman said such an injury would have immediately paralyzed Gray, making him unable to breathe, speak and use his limbs. Porter testified that Gray asked him for medical help at the fourth stop; Druid Hill Avenue and Dolphin Street. That is where Porter responded to Goodson’s call for assistance to check on Gray.
Ammeman said Gray’s injury was not “a survivable injury.” Prosecution witnesses said Gray could have survived if he received medical help sooner.
Defense also called police Officers Mark Gladhill and Matthew Wood, who worked with Porter at the Western District the day of Gray’s arrest.
Gladhill testified he saw Gray in the back of the van with his head and back up.
Wood was present at two of six stops the van made. He told jurors that during the second stop, when Gray was placed in leg shackles, he heard Gray banging around in the back of the van and saw the wagon shake back and forth.
Wood added he has never seen colleagues seat belt prisoners, despite it being department policy.