- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 13, 2015

BALTIMORE (AP) - Lawyers for Alicia White say the sergeant was a rising star determined to break the glass ceiling of the Baltimore City Police Department before she was charged, along with five other officers, in the death of Freddie Gray, who suffered a fatal spinal injury while in custody and has come to represent police brutality and the city’s broken department.

White’s attorneys, Ivan Bates and Tony Garcia, are the first to defend any of the officers’ character publicly. At a news conference on Wednesday hosted by the Vanguard Justice Society, a nonprofit organization that represents black and minority police officers in Baltimore, Bates and Garcia painted a portrait of a young woman from west Baltimore who attended the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and began her policing career in the neighborhood services division. Bates said White is a pillar of the community she served, and volunteered her time teaching residents about how to interact with police. She even goes to church in Sandtown-Winchester_the same neighborhood where Gray grew up, and was arrested on April 12.

“We need to sit down and look at, who is Alicia White, this woman, this sergeant?” Bates said. “Alicia White is your sister, she’s your cousin, she’s your friend, she’s your neighbor. She is Baltimore City.”

Gray died on April 19 of a spinal injury authorities say he suffered in police custody. Six officers including White have been charged in connection to his death. White faces charges of manslaughter, second-degree assault and misconduct in office. According to the charging documents, White was called to investigate two civilian complaints made about Gray’s arrest, and when she arrived to check on Gray she neglected to provide the man, who was unresponsive in the back of the police transport van, with medical aid.

Bates said White had only “15 seconds of alleged interaction with Mr. Freddie Gray,” and never made any physical contact with the man. The charges, filed by Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby just one day after her office received an investigative report on the incident from the police department, do not accuse White of ever touching Gray, but rather that she “spoke to the back of Mr. Gray’s head. When he did not respond, she did nothing further despite the fact that she was advised that he needed a medic,” the documents read.

But Garcia said White was simply in the “wrong place at the wrong time” and was “steamrolled.”

“As the covers are yanked off this investigation, you’re going to see a number of things: You’re going to see that accuracy was sacrificed for speed,” Garcia said. “Ms. White is not a symbol, she’s a human being. She was at the wrong place at the wrong time and has nothing to do with this,” adding that “perhaps justice wasn’t the only thing the state’s attorney was attempting to accomplish here.”

Others at the news conference, including the president and vice president of the Vanguard Justice Society, also praised White, who is a member of the organization.

Barbara Jackson, president of the Frankford Improvement Association, Inc., said community members “know Alicia as one of the better police officers we’ve ever met.”

Meanwhile, public records reveal that Lt. Brian Rice, the highest-ranking officer charged, used his position in March to try to persuade his hometown police to arrest his former wife’s estranged husband. The Westminster Police Department report, posted online Friday by the Guardian newspaper, says Rice told Westminster police he was a Baltimore police lieutenant and insisted they arrest Andrew McAleer for violating a court order to avoid contact with Rice’s child by Karen McAleer. The report says Westminster police went to Karen McAleer’s home but Andrew McAleer wasn’t there, as Rice had alleged.

A 2008 court document obtained by The Associated Press alleges Rice threatened to kill another woman in a domestic dispute. Jennifer Sobczak filed the sworn petition for protection in Baltimore County District Court. She wrote that she went to Rice’s Westminster home in April 2008 to retrieve some belongings and found him there with another woman. “As I headed for the door, he then grabbed my arm and forced me out, saying that if I ever came back that he would kill me,” Sobczak wrote.

Associated Press writer Dave Dishneau contributed to this report.

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