BALTIMORE (CN) - A 26-year-old police officer blamed for death of Freddie Gray said he did all he could to save the Baltimore man's life, taking the stand Wednesday in his manslaughter trial.
"We weren't friends, but we had a mutual respect," officer William Porter testified. "I had respect for Mr. Gray, and he knew I had a job to do and he respected that."
Porter said he had built a rapport with Gray during his 2 1/2 years on the force, patrolling in the Gilmore Home area in the Western District of Baltimore, where poverty, drug and violent crimes are rampant.
In the preceding days of the trial, prosecutors called on medical witnesses who blamed Gray's death from a spinal cord injury on the police officers' failure to buckle Gray into the police van after his arrest, and their failure to immediately get help for 25-year-old Gray when he showed signs of distress.
On Tuesday, a law enforcement expert spoke about police protocol when detainees experience a medical emergency.
Porter spent nearly five hours on the stand Wednesday, calling it standard procedure at the Baltimore City Police Department not to buckle suspects into transport vans.
The testimony runs counter to general orders the department had emailed just three day's before Gray's April 12 arrest, directing officers to belt arrestees.
Questioning by Porter's attorney repeatedly returned to the officer's position that arresting officers and transport van drivers bear the primary responsibility for the safety of an arrestee.
Officer Caesar Goodson, who is charged with depraved heart murder, drove the van that transported Gray.
At least five times during the questioning, Porter told the jury that "it's the responsibility of the wagon driver to get the detainee from point A to point B."
After Gray's arrest, police made six stops while hauling him in a police van to the Western District Police Station.
The assistant medical examiner testified that Gray's fatal injury occurred sometime between the second and fourth stop of a trip he spent in handcuffs and leg shackles.
Face-down on the van's floor, Gray had requested medical attention at the fourth stop, but his treatment began at the station after the nearly 45-minute trip. Gray became paralyzed and then brain-dead on April 19.
Cross-examining Porter, prosecutors grilled the officer on inconsistencies between his testimony and his recorded interview with detectives just five days after Gray's arrest.
At a compelling moment during the testimony, Deputy State's Attorney Michael Schatzow asked Porter that, at stops four and five, "you did not protect Freddie Gray's life, did you?"
"That is untrue," Porter responded.
Porter said he believed Gray was not seriously injured before they reached the police station, telling the jury that Gray had the use of his legs when Porter helped Gray from the floor of the van at the fourth stop.
Though Porter testified that Gray did not appear seriously injured, it was agreed that Gray would be taken to a nearby hospital to be medically cleared before he was brought to Central Booking.
Warren Brown, a veteran criminal attorney who has been watching Porter's trial, told reporters outside the courthouse that the officer did well on the stand, projecting himself as a caring police officer that was connected to the community he patrolled.