The city of Baltimore reached a $6.4 million settlement on Tuesday with Freddie Gray’s parents for the wrongful death of their son while in police custody. Although the officers responsible for Gray’s death have recently been charged with assault and manslaughter, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake emphasized that the settlement does not acknowledge any illicit activity committed by the police.
At 8:39 a.m. on April 12, three Baltimore police officers were patrolling on their bicycles when Lieutenant Brian Rice made eye contact with two individuals standing on a street corner. After the two men immediately fled, officers pursued the individuals and apprehended one of them. According to police, 25-year-old Freddie Gray surrendered without requiring the use of force as an officer aimed a Taser at Gray but did not fire.
After restraining Gray and arresting him, Officer Garrett Miller allegedly found a switchblade inside Gray’s pants pocket. Although Gray was charged with possession of an illegal knife, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby asserted that the arrest had been illegal because the knife in Gray’s pocket was not a switchblade. Mosby also pointed out that the knife was not even found until after Gray was arrested.
Witnesses claim that Lt. Brian Rice and officers Edward Nero and Miller used excessive force to arrest Gray and refused to give him medical treatment. After dragging Gray into the back of a police van, Officer Caesar Goodson allegedly administered a “rough ride” and was directly responsible for causing Gray’s severed spine. Gray fell into a coma and died on April 19.
After the Justice Department opened an investigation into Gray’s death in police custody, the medical examiner reportedly found that Gray sustained his fatal spinal cord injury when he slammed into the back of the police transport van, which broke his neck. The medical examiner also found a head injury that matches a bolt from the back of the van.
Baltimore police officers Caesar Goodson, Garrett Miller, Edward Nero, William Porter, Lt. Brian Rice, and Sgt. Alicia White were all charged with second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, and misconduct in office. Lt. Rice, Sgt. White, and Officer Porter were also charged with involuntary manslaughter for failing to request medical assistance. Officer Goodson was also charged with second-degree depraved-heart murder, manslaughter, and two counts of vehicular manslaughter.
Last week, Judge Barry Williams denied motions to dismiss charges against the officers and refused to remove the prosecutor in the case after defense attorneys for the officers accused her of prosecutorial misconduct. Williams also ordered the six officers to be tried separately.
On Tuesday, the city of Baltimore agreed to pay Gray’s family $6.4 million over the next two years in order to settle the wrongful death civil suit filed against the city. The city’s spending panel, which is controlled by Mayor Rawlings-Blake, is expected to approve the settlement on Wednesday.
“The proposed settlement agreement going before the Board of Estimates should not be interpreted as a judgment on the guilt or innocence of the officers facing trial,” the mayor said in a statement. “This settlement is being proposed solely because it is in the best interest of the city, and avoids costly and protracted litigation that would only make it more difficult for our city to heal and potentially cost taxpayers many millions more in damages.”
Lt. Gene Ryan, president of the city’s police union, called the settlement irresponsible and referred to the mayor’s reaction as “ridiculous.”
“Just as Baltimore is returning to its pre-riot normalcy, this news threatens to interrupt any progress made toward restoring the relationship between the members of the Baltimore Police Department the Baltimore City government,” Ryan said in a statement. “We strongly urge the city’s spending panel to reject this proposed settlement and to wait until such time as there is a more appropriate response.”
In 1997, Jeffrey Alston, 32, became paralyzed from the neck down after being arrested and receiving a rough ride. Baltimore police officers claim that Alston freed himself from the seatbelt and repeatedly rammed his own head into the side of the van. Although a jury awarded Alston $39 million, he and the city of Baltimore settled for $6 million. None of the officers involved faced disciplinary repercussions.
In November 2005, Dondi Johnson Sr., 43, was arrested for public urination and placed in a police transport van before emerging as a quadriplegic. After Officer Nicole Leake allegedly gave Johnson a rough ride while his hands were cuffed behind his back, Johnson suffered a fractured spine and died on December 7, 2005. Johnson’s family was initially awarded $7.4 million, but was eventually reduced to $219,000 by Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals.
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