Freddie Gray Dies After Spine Broken During Baltimore Police Arrest
A Baltimore man has died a week after suffering a broken spine while being arrested and transported by police for allegedly carrying a knife in his pants.
According to Baltimore Deputy Police Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez, bicycle officers attempted to stop 25-year-old Freddie Gray at around 8:40 a.m. on Sunday, April 12 in the 1600 block of North Avenue, near Gilmor Homes in Sandtown-Winchester.
It is not known why the officers wanted to stop Gray. Rodriguez called the circumstances surrounding the stop “a bit vague” but told reporters police believed Gray was “immediately involved or had been recently involved in criminal activity.” Police routinely stop young men, especially blacks and Hispanics, without any evidence of wrongdoing, as part of ‘tough on crime’ tactics like ‘stop and frisk,’ which was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge in 2013.
According to Baltimore police, Gray “fled unprovoked upon noticing police presence.” When officers caught Gray, they say they found a switchblade knife in his pants pocket and that he was apprehended “without force or incident.” But cellphone video footage recorded by a concerned citizen appears to show officers brutalizing Gray, who screams in pain, with his leg appearing to be bent at an unnatural angle, as he is dragged away into a waiting police van.
The Baltimore Sun reports Gray suffered three broken vertebrae at some point during his arrest or transport and was rushed to Shock Trauma. There, he underwent a double surgery on his broken vertebrae and an injured voice box, but died Sunday morning.
“Last Sunday morning… police chased Freddie Gray… without any evidence he had committed a crime,” a statement from Gray family lawyer William “Billy” Murphy III read. “His take-down and arrest without probable cause occurred under a police video camera, which taped everything including the police dragging and throwing Freddy into a police vehicle while he screamed in pain. While in police custody, his spine was 80 percent severed at his neck. He lapsed into a coma, died, was resuscitated, stayed in a coma and on Monday, underwent extensive surgery at Shock Trauma to save his life. He clung to life for seven days and died today at approximately 7:00 a.m.”
“We believe the police are keeping the circumstances of Freddie’s death secret until they develop a version of events that will absolve them of all responsibility,” Murphy’s statement continued. “However, his family and the citizens of Baltimore deserve to know the real truth; and we will not stop until we get justice for Freddie.”
Baltimore police officials announced the formation of a task force to investigate the incident, while Maryland State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby decides whether her office will file criminal charges against the officers. Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts expressed his condolences to the victim’s family.
“I extend my deepest sympathies to his family. I have no words to offer that will ease the pain that has resulted,” Batts said, adding “all lives matter,” a nod to the ‘Black Lives Matter’ slogan chanted by demonstrators at protests against the numerous black men and boys, many of them unarmed, killed by police.
Anger boiled over into protests as hundreds of demonstrators rallied and marched on City Hall and police headquarters on Sunday and Monday following news of Gray’s death.
“If I kill somebody, you kill somebody, we kill somebody, we’re supposed to be prosecuted,” William Stewart, a friend who grew up with Gray, told the Sun. “That was my friend. In a couple more days, I’m going to be seeing him in a casket.”
Justice League NYC, a task force of juvenile and criminal justice advocates, artists and experts and formerly incarcerated individuals, happened to be passing through Baltimore during a 250-mile #March2Justice from New York to Washington, DC.
“Today Justice League NYC has chosen to alter the planned route of March2Justice and march to the Western District Police Department of Baltimore to stand in solidarity with the family of Freddie Gray,” the group said in a statement. “As tensions are elevated in Baltimore, March2Justice participates in non-violent direct action to demand immediate transparency and accountability from Baltimore Police and elected officials.”
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake addressed the incident at a news conference following Gray’s death.
“I understand the frustration of the community and I take very seriously my obligation of transparency,” Rawlings-Blake said. “However we also have to balance that with our obligation to ensure a proper and thorough investigation is undertaken. Therefore we have to move forward in a responsible way to determine all the facts of this incident so that we can provide the community with answers.”
Baltimore Councilman Nick Mosby, whose Seventh District includes the area where Gray was arrested, called on city officials to immediately release all information regarding the incident, warning that “as time lapses, it only breeds skepticism and distrust.”
“An immediate response to provide the accurate information is critically important,” Mosby said. “A man lost his life in the custody of folks who are sworn to protect, and who we should be able to trust. No one is saying to do anything to rush to judgment; however, you have to communicate things that the community feels is part of the process. For the folks in West Baltimore, they don’t feel they are part of the process.”
Mosby added that “people are really fed up” because “justice isn’t always provided fairly and equally.”
The officers involved in the Gray incident have been placed on administrative leave, as per departmental policy.
Baltimore police are already under review by the US Justice Department following accusations of rampant misconduct, including many incidents of excessive use of force. Mayor Rawlings-Blake and Batts requested the federal probe after a Baltimore Sun investigation found the city has paid nearly $6 million since 2011 to settle more than 100 cases involving residents, almost all of them cleared of criminal charges, who were mistreated and brutalized by officers.
“Here in this neighborhood we’re already guilty before [officers] get out their cars,” West Baltimore resident Darren Pack told CBS Baltimore.
Tagged #March2Justice, Anthony W. Batts, Baltimore, Baltimore police brutality, Baltimore Police Department, black lives matter, Freddie Gray, Freddie Gray video, Marilyn Mosby, Nick Mosby, police brutality video, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake