BALTIMORE - Thousands of protesters hit the streets of Baltimore again Friday despite the charging of six police officers over the death of a 25-year-old African American whose spine was snapped in custody.
The charges - ranging from second-degree murder and manslaughter to misconduct - were set out in a surprise announcement by Maryland state prosecutor Marilyn Mosby.
All six officers - three of them black and three white, according to mugshots broadcast by CNN - were taken into custody and later posted bond, reports said.
The death of Freddie Gray, 25, just the latest black American to lose his life at the hands of police, has reignited simmering resentment in the United States over police tactics, particularly in their dealings with African Americans.
"The findings of our comprehensive, thorough and independent investigation, coupled with the medical examiner's determination that Mr. Gray's death was a homicide... have led us to believe that we have probable cause to file criminal charges," Mosby said.
Mosby said Gray "suffered a severe and critical neck injury as a result of being handcuffed, shackled by his feet and unrestrained" inside a moving police van following his arrest on April 12.
En route to a police station, the police van stopped at least three times, including once to pick up a suspect in an unrelated case.
Cheers broke out when Mosby unveiled the charges on the steps of Baltimore's war memorial, across the street from city hall, a focal point of protests demanding justice and change.
Baltimore's police union condemned what it called "an egregious rush to judgement" as it defended the officers and expressed confidence they would be vindicated.
"We believe that these officers will be vindicated as they have done nothing wrong," said Michael Davey, a lawyer for the city's Fraternal Order of Police, suggesting that prosecutors had succumbed to pressure from days of demonstrations.
Many in Baltimore, an East Coast port city of 620,000 about an hour's drive north of Washington, had expected Mosby to say that the case was still under investigation.