Death of young man in Baltimore leads to suspicion of police misconduct, protests

Chloe Webster, News Editor

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1. Devante Hill makes a heart with his hands after he was hit with pepper spray after someone threw a bottle at police on April 28 in Baltimore.

2. Asad Ali, 9, of Washington, D.C., gives a high five to Sergeant First Class Joe Hatcher with the Maryland National Guard during a rally at War Memorial Plaza in Baltimore on May 2 as protests continue in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray.

 

Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African American Baltimore resident, died April 19 from severe injuries to his spinal cord and larynx.

Gray had been in a coma for a week prior to his death after he was taken to the hospital by paramedics following his arrest for possession of a switchblade.

He was arrested the morning of April 12 after he encountered Baltimore police in the Sandtown-Winchester area. After Gray was seen by the police he attempted to flee but was chased down and tackled. In the scuffle, police found a switchblade in his pocket and took him into custody.

Although the circumstances surrounding the direct cause of Gray’s death are unclear, many suspect he began to struggle during the 30-minute van ride in a police transport van.

Baltimore Deputy Police Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez said in a press conference the week after his death that when he was put into the police transport van he was able to walk and breathe.

A little more than 10 minutes later, Rodriguez said Gray began asking for an inhaler. After he was ignored, the transport van driver said he began acting “irate.”

According to Deputy Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, when the transport van stopped to pick up another arrestee, Gray had to be picked up off the floor of the van and placed in a seat.

A medic was eventually called when they reached the Western District police station and taken to the University of Maryland R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center.

According to his lawyer, Gray was resuscitated once he arrived at the hospital and underwent extensive surgery. Although he lapsed into a coma after his spine was “80 percent severed” at his neck, he suffered three fractured vertebrae and an injured larynx. He died a week after his arrest.

When questioned about whether he could have been saved if the arresting officers had acted, Police Commissioner Anthony Batts acknowledged that police should have sought medical attention for Gray when he first asked for an inhaler.  “We know that police employees failed to get him medical attention in a timely manner,” Batts said at a press conference. 

Others, however, suspect that his death could have been caused by police brutality.

One bystander caught his arrest on tape, which appears to show Gray screaming while on the ground as police detain him. Three officers, who appear to be white, then drag the limp Gray into the back of a police transport van.

Another bystander admitted that the officers were “folding” Gray—with one officer bending Gray’s legs backwards, and another holding Gray down on his neck with his knee.

Three days after his death, on April 21, Rueters reported that hundreds of demonstrators gathered in the streets of Baltimore to peacefully protest Gray’s treatment.

On April 25, protests began to turn violent as protestors threw rocks and set fire to Baltimore buildings. On April 27, the day of Gray’s funeral, looting and rioting broke out. Two police cars were destroyed, a pharmacy was burned down and 15 officers were injured. In total, over the course of a few days, 34 people were arrested.

As a result, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency, and activated the Maryland National Guard. The Maryland State Police sent 82 troopers to protect the city, Hogan activated 500 state troopers for duty in Baltimore and requested an additional 5,000 police officers from other states.

Following public outcry, the Baltimore State Police Department suspended six officers with pay while the U.S. Department of Justice conducts an investigation.

On May 1, after recieving a medical examiner’s report which ruled Gray’s death a homicide, Maryland prosecutors said they had probable cause to file charges against the officers involved in his arrest. 

Sgt. Alicia White, Lt. Brian W. Rice, and Officer William G. Porter are charged with involuntary man-slaughter. Officer Garret E. Miller is charged with two counts of second degree assault; two counts of misconduct in office; and false imprisonment. Officer Edward M. Nero is charged with two counts of second degree assault, manslaughter by vehicle, two counts of misconduct in office; and false imprisonment. Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., the driver of the van, was charged with second-degree depraved heart murder. 

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2015-05-19 08:17:20

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