Extensive spinal injuries killed police custody victim
from various sources – May 2017
contributions by – Neelam Bi
Updates on this case are listed at the foot of this item
25 year old Freddie Gray’s death on 19 April 2015 had left many unanswered questions for his family, community and various other third parties. What is clear is that when Freddie was arrested in West Baltimore on the morning of 12 April, he was struggling to walk. By the time he arrived at the police station some 30 minutes later, he was unable to breathe or talk, and was suffering from wounds that would later kill him.
Mobile phone video footage taken by a bystander shows Freddie’s arrest at around 08.40 local time, on Presbury Street in the Sandtown neighbourhood of the city. Several police officers were later cleared in relation to his death. Freddie died in hospital from spinal injuries a week after he was taken him into custody.
According to wiriness statements, two men in yellow uniforms with ‘Baltimore Police’ labels are seen pinning Freddie to the ground. State prosecutor Marilyn Mosby said that he was illegally arrested, assaulted and falsely accused of carrying an illegal switchblade. (A police officer said that he had found the blade clipped inside Freddie’s trouser pocket after he had been detained). The state prosecutor also said that his arms had been handcuffed behind his back and that pleads for his inhaler were ignored the whole time.
It was reported that police officers had put Freddie into a tactical hold before putting him in the back of the van. Whilst the van was on its way to the police station, officers put Freddie Gray in leg irons after an officer determined that he became “irate”. Police officials admitted that Freddie should have received medical attention before he was actually put inside of the van.
Officer statements suggested that Freddie had “suffered a medical emergency” while he was being transported and that he was “immediately transported to Shock Trauma via medic”. He had arrived in critical condition.
Deputy Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez said that Freddie “suffered a very tragic injury to his spinal cord which resulted in his death”. It was claimed that his “spine was 80% severed at his neck”. Reports by local press claimed that that “significant force” would have to have been used in order for those injuries to have occurred. The force would be alike to that of the impact from a car crash.
“I know that when Mr Gray was placed inside that van, he was able to talk, he was upset, “Mr Rodriguez said. “And when Mr Gray was taken out of that van he could not talk and he could not breathe.”
On the 27 April 2015 a funeral service for Freddie was held and that very afternoon and evening rioters tore through parts of Baltimore leaving a path of debris, burnt and smashed cars and looted storefronts.
Freddie’s death became a symbol of the black community’s mistrust of police and triggered days of protests and riots in Baltimore. The city became a focal point of the Black Lives Matter movement and the nationwide debate on excessive police force.
The hospitalization and subsequent death of Freddie Gray resulted in an ongoing series of protests. On 25 April 2015, a major protest in downtown Baltimore turned violent, resulting in 34 arrests and injuries to 15 police officers.
After Freddie’s funeral civil disorder intensified with looting and burning of local businesses and stores, culminating with a state of emergency declaration by Governor Larry Hogan, Maryland National Guard deployment to Baltimore, and the establishment of a curfew. On May 3, the National Guard started withdrawing from Baltimore, and the night curfew on the city was lifted.
On the 1 May 2015 the state prosecutor announced criminal charges against six police officers involved in the case. The first trials jury could not reach a verdict.
In May 2015 all six Baltimore police officers in Freddie’s case were indicted by a grand jury.
In July 2016 prosecutors dropped all charges against three Baltimore police officers accused in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray, bringing to an end one of the highest-profile criminal cases in the city’s history with zero convictions.
Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby acknowledged the long odds of securing convictions in the remaining cases following the previous acquittals of three other officers on similar though more serious charges.
In an address to reporters Mosby said she still believed the death was a homicide. But now realizes the criminal justice system needs “real, substantive reforms” to hold officers accountable. “We could try this case 100 times, and cases just like it, and we would still end up with the same result.”
She went on to say that the case showed “an inherent bias that is a direct result of when police police themselves. There were individual police officers that were witnesses to the case, yet were part of the investigative team, interrogations that were conducted without asking the most poignant questions, lead detectives that were completely uncooperative and started a counter-investigation to disprove the state’s case.”
Baltimore officers will face no Federal charges in death of Freddie Gray
12 September 2017
Freddie Gray fallout in Baltimore