News of the indictment of six police officers in the death of Freddie Gray quickly rippled from Baltimore to the nation’s capital on Friday, striking a nerve with top elected officials.
President Barack Obama said it is “absolutely vital that the truth comes out on what happened to Mr. Freddie Gray.”
“Justice needs to be served,” Obama said. “What I think people of Baltimore want more than anything else is the truth. That’s what people around the country expect.”
The Justice Department, now led by Attorney General Loretta Lynch, is continuing to lead a separate civil rights investigation into Gray’s death.
Obama spoke shortly after Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby took to the podium to describe the circumstances that led to Gray’s death and read out the litany of charges against the Baltimore officers. Obama had not yet heard the nature of the charges as he spoke to reporters.
House Speaker John Boehner called the officers’ actions “outrageous” and “unacceptable” if the charges are proven true.
“Public servants should not violate the law,” he said Friday in an interview set to air Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Boehner also said he believes the relationship between African-Americans and law enforcement is a national crisis.
“I think that if you look at what’s happened over the course of the last year, you just have to scratch your head,” Boehner said.
The Congressional Black Caucus applauded Mosby’s “swift and decisive action,” but cautioned that the charges are just the beginning of a long process.
“This is the first of many steps to begin the process of mending the fractured relationship between law enforcement and the people of the city of Baltimore,” said Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-North Carolina, the group’s chairman. “Every citizen has a right to due process of law, and we are pleased to see the legal system is working. We continue to call for calm in the weeks and months ahead as we await the outcome of these cases.”
Cheers and tears of joy greeted Mosby’s announcement in Baltimore on Friday, but some cautioned that the charges would not necessarily result in convictions. The mother of Trayvon Martin, the black teenager who was shot and killed by George Zimmerman in 2012, pointed out that Zimmerman was ultimately not convicted.
Charges against the six officers range from negligence and assault, all the way up to a charge of second-degree depraved-heart murder, which was filed against the police officer driving the van carrying Gray.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake assured her constituents at a news conference Friday that “there will be justice” for Gray, his family and Baltimore’s residents, while pledging o work for a longer-term change in the city.
“I will continue to be relentless in changing the culture of the police department to ensure that everyone in our city is treated equally,” she said.