(CNN) — Baltimore police Officer William Porter, one of six officers charged in the April death of Freddie Gray, testified Wednesday that he didn’t realize Gray was injured until the final stop of the van ride in which the prisoner suffered a broken neck.
There was mucous around Gray’s nose and mouth, Porter said, testifying that he and another officer tried to assist Gray. They placed Gray in a “lifesaving position” and waited what “felt like an eternity” for a medic to arrive, Porter told the jury.
The first of the six officers to be tried, Porter took the stand — with one of his attorneys demonstrating Gray’s position — and said he never believed Gray needed immediate medical attention until the sixth and final stop.
“Are you sorry Freddie Gray died?” Porter was asked by one of his lawyers.
“Absolutely,” said Porter, who had testified that he knew Gray from the West Baltimore neighborhood he patrolled.
“Freddie Gray and I weren’t friends, but we had a mutual respect,” Porter said.
Earlier, Porter testified that he never called for a medic before that final stop because Gray had not exhibited signs of a medical emergency.
“I didn’t see anything externally, cuts or wounds,” Porter said.
Asked if Gray said he couldn’t breathe, Porter replied: “Absolutely not.”
Prosecutors allege that Porter, summoned by the driver to check on Gray during a stop on the way to a police station, did not immediately call for a medic when Gray asked for help. They also allege that Porter, after seeing that Gray was not buckled in, did not get him into a seat belt as was department policy.
“This defendant did nothing to get him a medic or get him to the hospital. He did nothing when he could have saved a man’s life,” State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow said in court Tuesday.
Gray’s death a week after the injury sparked outrage and demonstrations, some of which were plagued by arson, vandalism and looting, despite his family’s pleas for peace.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake joined Police Commissioner Kevin Davis at a news conference Wednesday to ask the public to respect the judicial process.
“Whether you agree or whether you disagree with the jury’s ultimate verdict, our reaction needs to be one of respect in Baltimore’s neighborhoods, and the residents and businesses who make up our city should reflect that respect,” she said.
On the stand, Porter said the only time he heard a man say he couldn’t breathe that day was when Gray was initially arrested. He said he did not know it was Gray who was speaking at the time.
Porter said he saw the police wagon shaking side-to-side and heard kicking during the second stop.
On the fourth stop, Porter said, the wagon’s driver asked him to check on Gray, who was facedown and asking for help. Porter said he helped the prisoner sit on a bench, with Gray “supporting his own head.”
Some prisoners exhibit what Porter called “jail-itis,” feigning injury to avoid going straight to the lockup. Gray did not say he was having trouble breathing, Porter testified.
The officer said he told the wagon’s driver, Officer Caesar Goodson, that Gray wanted to go to a hospital. He did not see Gray again until the final stop.
Porter, who joined the police department in 2010, testified that he used seat belts when transporting people in his cruiser, but never in the tight quarters of the wagon in which Gray sustained the fatal injuries.
Of the roughly 150 prisoners he put in police wagons during his time on the job, Porter said, none was secured with a seat belt.
“It is the responsibility of the wagon driver to get the prisoner from point A to point B,” he told the jury.
During his six weeks of field training, Porter testified, people transported in wagons were never secured with seat belts. At the police academy, he said, cadets were told to use seat belts while transporting prisoners, but were not shown how to do so.
Porter said he received an electronic copy of general orders, through a flash drive. “I never, ever had a physical copy of the general orders,” he said.
Porter testified that he got to know police officers as a boy through his involvement with a police athletic league, where officers helped the young men with homework and attended field trips with them.
His mother is a nurse and his father served in the U.S. Air Force, Porter told the jury. He said part of the reason he became a cop was to offer a positive view of officers.
Porter’s testimony came after his attorneys called a forensic pathologist as their first witness. The prosecution rested a weeklong case Tuesday in the death of Gray, who authorities said broke his neck while being transported in a police van, shackled but not wearing a seat belt.
Porter has pleaded not guilty to charges of involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment.
Gray’s April 12 arrest in Baltimore was captured in bystander videos. Prosecutors said Porter, 26, was present for all but one of six stops on Gray’s 45-minute ride to the Western Division police station.
It remains unclear exactly how Gray was injured, but Dr. Carol Allan, the assistant state medical examiner, testified Monday that Gray probably received his neck injury between the van’s second and fourth stops.
Although there is conflicting testimony about when, witnesses said Gray complained at least once of being unable to breathe. Gray asked Porter for medical assistance when the officer checked on him at the fourth stop, according to Allan’s testimony and Porter’s interview with department investigators. Allan said Gray probably was injured when the van stopped suddenly.
The delay in getting Gray medical attention led Allan to classify Gray’s death as a homicide.
“If he had gotten prompt medical attention, it would not have been a homicide,” she stated, adding that Gray probably would have survived if van driver Caesar Goodson had rushed him straight to a hospital when he told Porter “I can’t breathe.”
On Wednesday, Dr. Vincent Di Maio, a forensic pathologist testifying for the defense, said Gray’s death should have been declared an accident and that the fatal injuries likely occurred during later stops on the police wagon.
“It was just an accident and accidents happen,” he said.
Di Maio said he believes Gray suffered a “single catastrophic event” between the fifth and sixth stops — not between the second and fourth, as the prosecution claims — that left him paralyzed and unable to speak.
“This was a high energy event,” he said.
“His head had to hit one of the the doors or the wall in the van with such force and if you do that you are going get a concussion.”
Jury selection began on November 30, and the state called its first witness two days later. The Porter case is expected to end by December 17.
CNN’s Carolyn Sung, Jean Casarez, Aaron Cooper and Ann O’Neill contributed to this report.