A year and a half after Freddie Gray’s death, Sgt. Alicia White is still waiting to find out if she can return to a job she loves: Policing the city of Baltimore.
White was one of six Baltimore Police officers charged in the death of the 25-year-old Gray, who was fatally injured in police custody. His death sparked days of unrest in Baltimore.
White said she's prayed for Gray's family and is remorseful for his loss. But on April 12, 2015, when she first looked in the back of the van transporting Gray at Pennsylvania and North Avenue, she feels she did exactly what she was trained to do.
Would she have done anything differently?
“No," White said.
It is a simple answer to a complicated question. It’s also the thesis of her defense that would have been argued by her attorney, Ivan Bates.
"Based on the evidence it is clear. She has been consistent the entire time from her taped statements...both of them," Bates said.
According to Bates, White gave the same account in her first interview with police when she was considered a witness and again in her second interview, five days later, when she waived her rights and spoke to investigators.
During that April 17, 2015 interview, White told a detective that when she first saw him in the back of the transport van, Gray didn’t appear to need medical attention..
”He was just kind of sitting there. He wasn't – it wasn't like when I was talking to him, it wasn't like he was not – you know, it was like he just wasn't responsive, like he just didn't want to say anything…So I didn't look at him and say, oh my God, like you know, what's going on with this guy,” White said in the interview.
Bates emphasized White saw no symptoms that would indicate a medical emergency.
"She didn’t see any blood, she didn’t see any foam around the mouth, she saw that he was able to basically, he wasn’t laying down, he wasn’t moaning, he wasn’t groaning,” Bates said. “She saw no symptoms that would show that anything was wrong with Mr. Gray."
It wasn't until the sixth stop at the Western District, where the sergeant saw something was wrong with Gray. As she told detectives in her April 17 interview, she got on the police radio and made sure the medic was coming.
Police radio records show White made that call to the dispatcher four minutes after the first call went out.
"Once I got over closer to the guy, because I could see, like, okay, this guy's not looking right,” White said.
In the radio call, White can be heard asking if there is a medic on the way.
Bates said that call proves her innocence and that White’s concern over making sure a medic was on its way would have vindicated her in court.
"So the question is once you recognize something was wrong, what did you do?” Bates said. “And immediately she called and the other officers called as well…we were prepared actually to take a jury trial and we know that would have been our winning argument."
A judge previously acquitted three officers in the case, and the jury trial of a fourth officer ended in a mistrial. The Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office ultimately decided to drop the charges in the remaining cases, including White’s.
In October, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said she wants legislation that would allow prosecutors to reject a Maryland defendant’s request for a bench trial. She has publically lamented the choice of three of the officers to have a bench trial, implying she may have gotten a conviction from a jury.
Bates said White would have chosen a jury trial and he was always confident in the frailty of Mosby's case and in his client's story.
"I've never seen a case this bad and this poorly handled by Michael Schatzow and Jan Bledsoe in the courtroom, the way they handled the evidence...it was absolutely a travesty,” Bates said. “I know who Sgt. Alicia White is. I know that by Michael Schatzow dismissing the charges, he robbed us of the opportunity to let the world know who she is and know her story and that is important."
The Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office said the case was always about pursuing justice.
“The Office of the State's Attorney for Baltimore City stands by the decisions, legal theories, charges, and assertions set forth in the statement of probable cause and during all proceedings. These charges have always been about the pursuit of justice for an innocent 25-year-old man who lost his life in the custody of the police,” said Rochelle Ritchie, Communications Director for the State’s Attorney Office.
Since charges were dropped, White has returned to work in an administrative role, pending the results of an internal investigation. She hopes to eventually get back to work in the community she calls home.
This story is part two in a series of interviews with Alicia White that were conducted by investigative reporter Brian Kuebler at WMAR’s studios on Oct. 27, and on subsequent dates in White’s neighborhood of West Baltimore.