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Trials Set To Begin For 6 Baltimore Police Officers In Freddie Gray Case


In Baltimore, the anniversary of the death of Freddie Gray is fast approaching. Gray was the young black man who died in police custody, and his death sparked protests and civil unrest across the city. Six police officers face charges in the incident, though legal proceedings have dragged on for months. Now, a judge has cleared the way for trials to begin. Reporter Andrea Seabrook spent some time talking with Freddie Gray's neighbors.

ANDREA SEABROOK, BYLINE: In the West Baltimore neighborhood where Freddie Gray lived, people gathered this past week to tell their stories.

TALIA MARROW: My brother was never found to have any weapon of any sort - no money, nor contraband. My brother also was running when he was murdered.

SEABROOK: This is Talia Marrow. Her brother, Jeffrey Marrow, was shot by police after, they said, he stole a bus pass.

MARROW: I know now no matter how fast he ran, he still was going to lose his life.

SEABROOK: Marrow's story was just one of dozens collected by a community group called the No Boundaries Coalition. Almost a year ago, after Freddie Gray died in police custody, the people in this coalition went door-to-door collecting stories of how police work in West Baltimore.

CW HARRIS: Who are you guarding? Who are you protecting? You're protecting yourself first.

SEABROOK: This is Elder C.W. Harris of a church in the neighborhood. He's lived and worked here for more than 60 years and he says...

HARRIS: The life that we're living is not normal. We need to change that.

SEABROOK: There are signs of change, some say. This past week, a judge cleared the way for jury trials to begin for the six police officers charged in connection with Freddie Gray's death. And on the street in Baltimore's poorest neighborhoods, police say they're doing things differently now.

DONNY MOSES: First, we had to take a look at ourselves, which is really why we're pushing to be back out in the community.

SEABROOK: Detective Donny Moses walks the beat in another poor, troubled block in Baltimore.

MOSES: Hey, what's up, baby? How you doing? Good, good.

SEABROOK: He knows people here. Detective Moses lives nearby. And, he says, the police department isn't trying to hide the fact that there have been big problems in the past.

MOSES: We had gotten away from dealing with people. I mean, any district you go to, you can see where we're out and about and we're doing things.

SEABROOK: Moses says there are more cops out of their cars, walking the sidewalk, blending into communities. It's a start, he says, though the police department knows right now is a tense time.

MOSES: We know that anniversary is coming. We know the trials are coming. We realize people will be protesting. All of those emotions may come back up.

SEABROOK: They also know it's not just Baltimore, but the whole country watching what happens here. People are asking - will the court proceedings into Freddie Gray's death be fair? Can cops really be put on trial? And will Gray's family find justice? It's not just the police being scrutinized here but law enforcement and the justice system itself. Andrea Seabrook, NPR News, Baltimore. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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