Baltimore Police Officer Edward Nero, one of six facing charges in the death of Freddie Gray, on Thursday will stand trial before a judge rather than a jury, clearing the way for a quick resolution to his emotionally charged case.
Nero, 30, is the second officer to face trial in connection with Gray's death in April 2015 from a neck injury suffered in a police transport van. He is white; Gray, 25, was black. The incident sparked rioting and protests across the city of 620,000 and has been one of those highlighted by the Black Lives Matter movement.
The officer, who faces charges of second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office, waived his right to a jury trial and will have the judge decide his fate in a bench trial.
Nero was one of three officers who arrested Gray when he made eye contact with one of them and then ran off in a high-crime area. The officers took Gray into custody and placed him in the back of a police van, where he was critically injured during a 45-minute trip to a nearby police station. He died a week later.
Nero is the second officer to go to trial in the case. Officer William Porter is awaiting a second trial after his first ended in a hung jury in December.
The van's driver, Officer Caesar Goodson, faces the most serious charge of second-degree depraved heart murder for refusing to take Gray to the hospital and instead stopping to pick up another prisoner. When the van finally arrived at the police station, Gray was unresponsive.
Trials for all the officers are scheduled over the next few months. They all have pleaded not guilty.
The city agreed in September to pay Gray's family $6.4 million to settle civil litigation in the case.