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TOWSON, Md. (WJZ) –A Baltimore County officer accused of killing a 17-year-old boy is free after the jury hands down a not guilty verdict.
Officer James Laboard was charged with manslaughter after his attorneys say he accidentally choked Christopher Brown to death.
Rochelle Ritchie has more.
The jury took just four hours to make their decision after closing arguments Thursday. Laboard was cleared of involuntary and voluntary manslaughter charges.
Family and friends of 17-year-old Christopher Brown in disbelief after the jury hands down a not guilty verdict on all charges against Officer James Laboard, charged in his death.
“My son’s life was taken at the hands of that officer,” said Chris Brown, victim’s mother.
The Baltimore County Police Department had this to say about the outcome of the trial:
“The [department] respects the decision of the jury in this case. Officers of the law are entitled to the same due process as any other citizen. In this case, a jury has found Officer Labourd not guilty on all charges, and as a result he will return to a paid status effective immediately. Officer Labourd will remain suspended pending the outcome of the department’s review of this case and will be assigned to administrative duties.”
The steps leading to the emotional case began June of 2012. Investigators say Brown and several other rambunctious teens threw rocks at Laboard’s door and ran.
Brown was found hiding in some nearby bushes when police say he and the off duty officer began fighting. The defense argues Brown started throwing punches. Laboard says he put Brown in a choke hold to restrain him.
“This came down to an issue of fact and what was reasonable force.”
The medical examiner concluded Brown died of asphyxia and testified he didn’t have any injuries to his hand, which is typically found when someone is in a fist fight.
“It was a travesty. I think there was a lot of information not shed to this jury.”
Brown’s mother, who continues to push for legislation for better training of officers, relies on her faith for strength and says regardless of the jury’s not guilty verdict she will not let her son’s death be in vain.
“My passion is just this doesn’t happen to anyone else. Christopher was my heart. We just want his legacy to continue,” she said.
The attorney for the Brown family also expressed his frustration. Laboard was repeatedly referred to as “the officer” instead of “the defendant” during the trial.
He says that may have played on the jury’ perception of James Laboard.
Christopher Brown’s mother was not in the courtroom when the verdict was read. Both families remained calm as the verdict was read.