BALTIMORE — Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said Thursday he likely would have delivered a lesser charge to the six police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray than the criminal charges imposed by Baltimore’s state attorney.
“I probably wouldn’t have charged them to that extent,” he said in response to a question from press during a roundtable discussion with pastors in Baltimore.
Though individual charges varied, some of the six officers were charged with second-degree murder, others with manslaughter. The state’s attorney, Marilyn Mosby, has faced criticism from the Baltimore police union and other critics who believe she was too quick to file criminal charges and was motivated by the protests that erupted in the wake of Gray’s death.
Carson said, however, it was impossible to offer an opinion without having seen the evidence in the case.
“But then again, I’m not a lawyer, I’m not a district attorney. Plus, none of us has seen the evidence that she has seen so, without seeing the evidence it’s impossible to really weigh in on whether she overcharged someone,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Carson had expressed support for Mosby’s decision.
“Somebody did something inappropriate and therefore she understood — I believe — that she was sitting on a powder keg and needed to do something to calm the situation down,” Carson said of Mosby’s move on CNN’s “New Day.”
The comments were characteristic of the measured approach Carson has taken to the tragedy and subsequent unrest throughout Baltimore and the rest of the nation. He was the first 2016 contender to visit the city since protests there exploded into riots nearly two weeks ago, and spoke frankly with about three dozen largely African-American pastors and local community members about the issues confronting the city.
Carson said, though, that he doesn’t believe all six officers charged are in fact guilty of wrongdoing. During his roundtable discussion later Thursday, however, Carson did say — “putting on my doctor’s hat” — that he believes the injury that contributed to Gray’s death was caused during his apprehension by police.
“An injury to the spine that can create the kind of damage that that did requires direct trauma to the spine. This is not something you get from flailing around,” he said.
“More than likely, in the process of apprehending him — he’s put on the ground in a prone position and somebody, you know, put a knee in a wrong position, and that can destabilize the spine. And then, when you’re rattling around with a destabilized spine, all kind of things can happen. I’m sure that was not the intent of whoever did it, but obviously it looks very suspicious to the community,” he said.
Carson’s called Baltimore home for more three decades, and served as director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University for 29 years.
Carson, who grew up poor in Detroit, also repeated his previous comments about Gray’s death and tensions between inner cities and the police.
He stressed that the solution to the frustration that he believes sparked the looting and violence in Baltimore is to “bring real hope back and do the kinds of things that actually allow people to be elevated out of dependent and dismal situations.”