The controversy behind Freddie Gray’s death


Jim Bourg

In order to stop the violence in Baltimore, people linked hands, keeping the protestors from the police.

To Americans, sitting in front of the TV on April 27 evoked terror and revenge for police brutality as people burned and looted businesses in retaliation of the death of an African American due to police brutality.

“People participate in this type of event for a real reason,” Darnell Hunt, a UCLA professor who studied the 1992 Rodney King riots, said to Vox. “It’s not just people taking advantage. It’s not just anger and frustration at the immediate or proximate cause. It’s always some underlying issues.”

After making eye contact with a police officer, Freddie Gray and ran from him, leading to his arrest. Official reports said that he had a switchblade in his possession, but police reports confirm the knife was not a switchblade. So, the arrest was illegal.

While being arrested, Gray and asked for his inhaler because he said he was having trouble breathing, but he did not receive it. The police placed him in the back of their truck without a seatbelt, forsaking police department rules.

“Police officers would say they are just doing what they are being told to do in a city with a long history of crime problems. These officers definitely did not do anything wrong, criminally,” Robert Cherry, the former president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, an organization that speaks for Baltimore police officers, said to New York Times.

In the car, Gray sustained fatal injuries, and although the officers checked on Gray multiple times (although whether they were sustained because of police brutality or self-harm is disputed), he did not receive any medical attention until the car arrived at the police station after nearly an hour after being arrested.

“The death of Freddie Gray, or any person in police custody, is a tragedy. The charges announced today by the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office are serious, and the next stage of the justice process now commences,” Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said to the Baltimore Sun.

Gray died a week later on April 12 as a result of these injuries, which included a broken neck and a severed spinal cord.

“It can be a progressive, cumulative loss of function if the spinal cord is unstable and unprotected,” Dr. Ali Bydon, a neurosurgeon, said to the Baltimore Sun. “You don’t need tremendous force to follow up on further injury to the spine – a force you and me can take because we have stable necks, but that an unstable neck cannot withstand.”

Monday, April 27, Gray’s funeral was held. After the funeral, masses of people stayed out past an established curfew in the streets, outnumbering the police.

The rioters grew intense, burning buildings and looting businesses. According to The New York Times, they lit 15 buildings and 144 cars on fire, 19 police officers were injured and over 200 people were arrested.

Gray’s mother, Gloria Darden, advocates for justice for her son, but said to Time magazine, “Don’t tear up the whole city just for him. That’s wrong.”

After that Tuesday, it grew quiet for the most part, leaving only peaceful protesters. Still, the aftermath of the riots was left behind; over 200 businesses were destroyed in total.

“What I think the people of Baltimore want more than anything else is the truth,” President Barack Obama said in a press conference. “That’s what people around the country expect.”

A few men who attempted to stop the riots by standing between the rioters and police officers, telling both sides, This far and no further. On Tuesday, people gathered in the streets to clean up a local CVS and a young boy offered the police officers water.

“I thought it was my civic duty to come out to restore my neighborhood,” Baltimore resident Myra Keane told CBS.

The six police officers who were involved in the arrest and death of Gray have been charged with crimes including manslaughter, assault and misconduct in office by Baltimore’s state attorney Marilyn Mosby. In addition, the governor has lifted the state of emergency from Baltimore, and the mayor promises that police will be wearing body cameras by the end of the year.

“I was looking for an instrument not only to hold the police department accountable but also to hold the citizenry accountable,” Anthony Batts, Baltimore’s chief of police, said to CBS.

However, some, like resident Baltimore motivational speaker Edward Jenkins, believe the affair has not come to a close. Only one officer involved was charged with second-degree murder, and the other officers were charged with manslaughter and or assault.

“I think this will take some of the nervousness off of it, but they’ll still want a guilty verdict,” Jenkins said in an interview with The New York Times. “It means that we’re absolutely getting a start on justice.”