Midday Roundup: Officer acquitted in Freddie Gray's death
by Lynde Langdon
Posted 5/23/16, 11:48 am
Officer exonerated. A judge today acquitted Baltimore police officer Edward Nero in the death of Freddie Gray, who died in April 2015 from injuries he suffered while in police custody. Prosecutors blamed Nero for neglecting to buckle Gray into the back of a police van while he was handcuffed and shackled. But a judge found Nero, who waived his right to a jury trial, not guilty of assault, reckless endangerment, and misconduct in office. Nero is one of six officers charged in the case. Officer William Porter’s manslaughter trial ended in a hung jury in December. Gray’s death set off more than a week of protests followed by looting, rioting, and arson that prompted a citywide curfew.
Back in business. President Barack Obama lifted a ban on selling arms to Vietnam today, strengthening ties with a country that has become a crucial U.S. partner in the region. By removing the half-century-old embargo, the U.S. hopes to increase its influence in Southeast Asia and counter China’s power there. “This change will ensure that Vietnam has access to the equipment it needs to defend itself and removes a lingering vestige of the Cold War,” Obama said. Activists concerned about Vietnam’s poor human rights record criticized the partnership, saying the embargo was the best leverage the U.S. had for pushing Vietnam to stop abusing dissidents.
Familiar territory. The Iraqi army, backed up by U.S.-coalition forces, has begun its assault on the city of Fallujah, an Islamic State (ISIS) stronghold just 40 miles west of Baghdad. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the beginning of military operations in a televised speech late Sunday night. He vowed to “tear up the black banners of strangers who usurped this city.” Fallujah was the site of bloody battles between U.S. troops and militants who opposed them after the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. Many civilians remain in the city, blocked by ISIS from escaping. About 80 families managed to flee in the past few days, according to the UN Refugee Agency.
Strategic strike. A U.S. drone strike over the weekend killed the head of the Taliban. President Barack Obama, who is visiting Vietnam today, confirmed the death of Mullah Akhtar Mansour. Obama called Mansour “a high-profile leader who has been consistently part of plans and operations to potentially harm U.S. personnel and who has been resistant to the kinds of peace talks and reconciliation that ultimately could bring an end to decades of war in Afghanistan.” Mansour was killed by a U.S. drone that fired on his vehicle in the southwestern Pakistan province of Baluchistan. The Pentagon said it notified Pakistan of the drone strike shortly after it occurred. The Pakistani government yesterday stated the attack was a violation of its sovereignty.
Deadly adventure. Four people died on Mount Everest in the past week, dashing hopes that this year’s climbing season would be safer for adventurers. Poor planning and overcrowding on the world’s tallest peak might have contributed to the deaths, Ang Tshering, of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, said Monday. A Sherpa and climbers from Holland, Australia, and India, died from altitude sickness. Some of them might have been delayed coming down the mountain by bottlenecks on the crowded trail. Two other Indian climbers remain missing. Deadly disasters canceled climbing on Everest the past two years.
WORLD Radio’s Jim Henry and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
<p> <em class="active_element">WORLD Radio’s Jim Henry and The Associated Press contributed to this report.</em> </p>