William G. Porter, one of the six Baltimore police officers accused in the death of Freddie Gray, took the stand on Wednesday in his manslaughter trial. “You did not protect Freddie Gray’s life, did you?” Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow said at one point. “Untrue,” Porter said.
Schatzow, the Baltimore Sun reports, focused on contradictions between Porter’s testimony and the statement he gave investigators in the immediate aftermath of Gray’s death. At the time, Porter said, he thought he was just a witness: “I didn’t know I needed to defend myself.”
Porter’s testimony Wednesday was marked by contentious exchanges with Schatzow and by dramatic demonstrations in which Porter’s other attorney, Joseph Murtha, got on the ground and pretended to be Gray as Porter described Gray’s position in the back of the van.
In a key exchange, Porter disputed the prosecution’s claim that he told a police investigator in April that Gray told him he couldn’t breathe at the fourth stop of the van.
Porter testified that he overheard someone — who he later learned was Gray — mentioning having trouble breathing, but that was at the first stop, when Gray asked for an inhaler. Porter said if Gray had told him he couldn’t breathe at the fourth stop, he would have immediately called for a medic.
Porter testified that, not only was he was familiar with the neighborhood where Gray was arrested, having spent time there on foot patrol, but he knew Gray.
Gray’s death, Porter said, was “very traumatic, because of being in the neighborhood every day.”