Western District officers testify for defense, say seat belts not used in vans

General orders, email usage, and the shabby state of the Western District's computers were again the subject of testimony this afternoon in the trial of Officer William Porter, the first of six Baltimore Police officers to go to trial in the death of Freddie Gray.

Two officers who worked in the same station as Porter were called to the stand by the defense—both were on the periphery of certain scenes between Gray's arrest and arrival at the Western District, but neither saw him for more than a brief instant. Both testified that, prior to April 12, they had never seen an officer belt a detainee into the back of a van.

First on the stand was Officer Mark Gladville, who testified he responded to a call for back-up at 1700 North Mount Street, the site of Gray's arrest outside Gilmor Homes. He said he talked to Porter there, but during cross-examination, he could not remember if he was in his car or not, which led to a bit of grilling from Deputy State's Attorney Janice Bledsoe.

He followed Porter down the street to Presbury, where Gray was pulled out and shackled. Gladville testified he watched over the bicycles of officers Garrett Miller and Edward Nero, two of the other officers scheduled for trials in Gray's death. After Gray was loaded into the van and the crowd disperesed, Gladville brought the bikes to within 5 to 10 feet of the van.

Gladville was later called to North and Pennsylvania avenues, the site of another arrest. He stood guard over the arrestee and tried to keep the crowd surrounding the scene under control. At one point, with both the van door and cage door open on the right side, he was able to peer in and see Gray for a few seconds.

Then, defense attorney Gary Proctor continued his strategy of showing the inefficiencies of the Baltimore Police Department. Gladville testified he received 100-200 emails a day, and that during a 10-hour-and-35-minute shift, there was no time set aside for reading them. He described the computers at the Western as "terrible," saying only half work, most don't print, and many of the mouses don't function.

Proctor again hit on the practices of Baltimore Police officers belting in passengers.

"I've never seen anybody seat belted in a wagon," Gladville testified.

"That was before April 12. Do you see people seat belted now?" Proctor asked.

"Yes," Gladville answered.

A key moment for prosecutors came during cross-examinaton with Bledsoe, when Gladville testified he did not hear any screams or see the van rocking at Presbury, as others have said.

After being unable to recall the position of Gray's legs during the brief instance he saw Gray in the van, Gladville was presented with his earlier grand jury testimony from May and, memory refreshed, recalled that Gray's knees were facing the bench and his back was angled over the seat.

In re-direct with Proctor, Gladville revealed he was given immunity by the state.

Next on the stand was Officer Matthew Wood, who was also called to assist at Gilmor. He testified he worked crowd control and only saw the van when he turned around for quick glances. At no point did he see the doors open.

After returning to the station, he too was called out to the scene at North and Pennsylvania. He testified he gave a ride to Sgt. Alicia White, who's also set to go on trial in the death of Gray, and said he saw White a few feet from the van having a conversation. But he could not hear the words she said, nor could he hear any responses, he testified.

Proctor once again brought up emails.

"We just really don't have time to check email," Wood testified.

In re-direct, Proctor again brought up a general order released by the department in early April that instructed officers to seat belt in all detainees and to call for medics when requested.

Wood testified he had only heard of the order sometime after April 12, when it was read to him at roll call.

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