The Killing of Freddie Gray
A Baltimore grand jury has indicted all six police officers involved in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced Thursday.
The indictments come just under three weeks after Mosby filed multiple charges against each officer, finding that Gray’s spine was severely severed while in police custody after officers handcuffed and shackled the 25-year-old and placed him head-first into a police van without a seat belt. Gray died from his injuries a week later.
The charges brought by the grand jury vary only slightly from those Mosby announced on May 1. The most serious charge, second-degree depraved heart murder, remains against officer Caesar Goodson Jr., who was behind the wheel of the police van that transported Gray for 45 minutes.
RELATED: What we know about the charged cops
“On May 1st our investigation revealed that we had enough probable cause to bring charges against the six officers,” Mosby said Thursday. ”The grand jury, who also concluded there is sufficient evidence for probable cause, returned indictments on all counts presented to them.”
Officers Garrett Miller, Alicia White, Edward Nero, Brian Rice and William Porter face additional charges ranging from involuntary manslaughter to reckless endangerment after Mosby said Gray was arrested on illegal grounds, and once in custody, his pleas for medical attention were ignored.
All six officers are out on bail. Their arraignment is set for July 2.
Unlike other high-profile cases involving grand jury investigations of black men dying at the hands of police, Mosby’s office conducted an investigation of its own and chose to file charges against the officers involved. The grand jury’s decision now brings the case from the district court level to the Baltimore City Circuit Court.
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The Baltimore riots threw a spotlight on the poverty and isolation of the African-American community where the unrest began last month. The problems were underscored on Friday when the Justice Department, in response to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s request, started an investigation of the Police Department, which has an egregious history of brutality and misconduct.
Other cities are plagued by the same difficulties, but they have proved especially intractable in Baltimore. A new study from Harvard offers evidence that Baltimore is perhaps the worst large city in the country when measured by a child’s chances of escaping poverty.
The city’s racially segregated, deeply poor neighborhoods cast an especially long shadow over the lives of low-income boys. For example, those who grew up in recent decades in Baltimore earn 28 percent less at age 26 than otherwise similar kids who grew up in an average county in the United States.
As shocking as they are, these facts make perfect sense in the context of the century-long assault that Baltimore’s blacks have endured at the hands of local, state and federal policy makers, all of whom worked to quarantine black residents in ghettos, making it difficult even for people of means to move into integrated areas that offered better jobs, schools and lives for their children. This happened in cities all over the country, but the segregationist impulse in Maryland generally was particularly virulent and well-documented in Baltimore, which is now 63 percent black.
A Southern City
Americans might think of Maryland as a Northern state, but it was distinctly Southern in its attitudes toward race. In the first decade of the 20th century, for example, the Legislature approved amendments to the State Constitution to deny the vote to black citizens. Voters rejected these amendments, not out of sympathy for civil rights, but because of suspicion that the political machine would use disenfranchisement to gain a stranglehold over state politics.
The segregationist effort in Baltimore gained momentum in 1910, shortly after a Yale-educated black lawyer bought a house in the well-heeled Mount Royal section of the city. The uproar among whites led to an ordinance that partitioned the city into black blocks and white blocks: No black person could occupy a home on a block where more than half the people were white; no white person could move into a block where more than half the residents were black. In 1910, The New York Times described this as “the most pronounced ‘Jim Crow’ measure on record.”
When the courts overturned the ordinance, the city adopted a strategy, already successful in Chicago, under which building and health department inspectors lodged code violations against owners who ignored the apartheid rule. Civic leaders then imposed restrictive covenants that barred black residents.
‘House Not For Sale’
The Federal Housing Administration, created in 1934 by Congress to promote homeownership by insuring private mortgages, could have staved off housing segregation by enforcing a nondiscrimination policy. Instead, as the historian Kenneth Jackson explained in “Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States,” the agency reflected “the racist tradition of the United States.” It insisted on a rigid, white-black separation in housing. It openly supported racist covenants that largely excluded African-Americans — even the middle class and well-to-do — from the homeownership boom that took place between the 1930s and the 1960s. And it typically denied mortgages to black residents wherever they lived.
As Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote last year in The Atlantic, this policy meant that the federal government had endorsed a system of financial apartheid under which “whites looking to achieve the American dream could rely on a legitimate credit system backed by the government. Blacks were herded into the sights of unscrupulous lenders who took them for money and for sport.”
African-Americans who were cut off from legitimate bank mortgages paid a price. But the penalty was especially high in Chicago and Baltimore, where laws allowed the worst kinds of financial predation. Black buyers often resorted to what was known as the contract system, run by sellers who were the subprime sharks of their time. They rigged up ruinously priced installment plans and financial booby traps with the express aim of repossessing the home when the buyer missed even one payment and then selling it again. To meet the outrageous costs, borrowers sometimes subdivided apartments and skimped on repairs, allowing properties to fall into decay.
The system accelerated urban decline and ghettoization. It also prevented a generation of black citizens from gaining the wealth that typically flows from homeownership. Writing of Baltimore just last month, Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, argued that “the distressed condition of African-American working- and lower-middle-class families” in Maryland’s largest city and elsewhere “is almost entirely attributable to federal policy that prohibited black families from accumulating housing equity during the suburban boom that moved white families into single-family homes from the mid-1930s to the mid-1960s — and thus from bequeathing that wealth to their children and grandchildren, as white suburbanites have done.”
Trapped in the Neighborhood
Segregation that traps black families in dangerous, decrepit neighborhoods continues to be an issue in Baltimore. As recently as 2012, for example, the United States District Court in Maryland approved a settlement in the long-running public housing desegregation suit, Thompson v. HUD, which sought to eradicate 100 years of government-sponsored segregation in the Baltimore region. The settlement called for expanding a housing mobility program that helps black residents move to low-poverty neighborhoods that are racially integrated in the city and surrounding region.
Against this backdrop, the data showing diminished life chances for poor people living in Baltimore should not be startling. The tensions associated with segregation and concentrated poverty place many cities at risk of unrest. But the acute nature of segregation in Baltimore — and the tools that were developed to enforce it over such a long period of time — have left an indelible mark and given that city a singular place in the country’s racial history
Freddie Gray’s Death Reveals a Dark History of 'Nickel Rides' and Police Van Torture
By John Vibes
April 28, 2015
Baltimore, MD — This week, protests and riots erupted in Baltimore, in response to the police murder of an innocent 27-year-old man named Freddie Gray.
According to police, Gray was first stopped and arrested by officers at 8:39am on April 12 and was thrown in the back of a police van 15 minutes later. An entire hour later an ambulance was called to give him medical care, but he sadly fell into a coma died soon after. He suffered broken vertebra and an injured voice box, which required emergency spinal surgery that he never recovered from.
Many suspect that Gray was the victim of a “Nickel Ride”, a horrific police torture tactic where a suspect is handcuffed and placed in the back of a police van without restraints, and driven recklessly around town by police officers. This practice has also been called a “Rough Ride” or a “Cowboy Ride.”
“We know he was not buckled in the transportation wagon, as he should have been. No excuses for that, period,” Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said Friday. “We know our police employees failed to get him medical attention in a timely manner multiple times.”
According to NBC News,
Davis said the police van stopped three times before arriving at the station. It stopped first so police could place “leg irons” on Gray, and stopped a second time “to deal with Mr. Gray, and the facts of that interaction are under investigation,” Davis said.
The van stopped a third time to pick up a second prisoner and went on to the Western District police station, where an ambulance was called, Davis said. “At no point was he wearing a seat belt,” while in the police van, Davis said. Police policy requires all prisoners to wear seat belts during transport.
A second video surfaced that showed the second stop and without a doubt that Gray was not belted in and in fact placed in leg irons.
Last year, Nickel Rides became notorious in Philadelphia, after a court case revealed that police were using this tactic as a witness-free way to punish unruly, uncooperative, or arrogant suspects – without ever laying a hand on them. For rogue police, it was a literal way to deliver “street justice.”
The practice was exposed through the lawsuit of a man named James McKenna, who was awarded $490,000 after he was able to prove in court that he was intentionally injured during his ride in a police van.
Baltimore itself also has a dark history of police van torture. In fact, Baltimore Police have paid out millions of dollars in settlements to victims who were critically injured during rides in police vans. In 2012, a woman from Baltimore named Christine Abbott sued police after she was badly injured during a bumpy ride in the back of a police van.
That same year, the death of Anthony Anderson was ruled a homicide, he too died of injuries sustained while riding in a police van.
John Vibes is an author, researcher and investigative journalist.
Ten Shocking Facts About Baltimore
By Bill Quigley
April 28, 2015
Were you shocked at the disruption in Baltimore? What is more shocking is daily life in Baltimore, a city of 622,000 which is 63 percent African American. Here are ten numbers that tell some of the story.
5 -- Blacks in Baltimore are more than 5.6 times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana than whites even though marijuana use among the races is similar. In fact, Baltimore county has the fifth highest arrest rate for marijuana possessions in the USA.
5.7-- Over $5.7 million has been paid out by Baltimore since 2011 in over 100 police brutality lawsuits. Victims of severe police brutality were mostly people of color and included a pregnant woman, a 65 year old church deacon, children, and an 87 year old grandmother.
6 -- White babies born in Baltimore have six more years of life expectancy than African American babies in the city.
8 -- African Americans in Baltimore are eight times more likely to die from complications of HIV/AIDS than whites and twice as likely to die from diabetes related causes as whites.
8.4 -- Unemployment is 8.4 percent city wide. Most estimates place the unemployment in the African American community at double that of the white community. The national rate of unemployment for whites is 4.7 percent, for blacks it is 10.1.
9 -- African American babies in Baltimore are nine times more likely to die before age one than white infants in the city.
20 -- There is a twenty year difference in life expectancy between those who live in the most affluent neighborhood in Baltimore versus those who live six miles away in the most impoverished.
23.8 -- 148,000 people, or 23.8 percent of the people in Baltimore, live below the official poverty level.
56-- 56.4 percent of Baltimore students graduate from high school. The national rate is about 80 percent.
92 -- 92 percent of marijuana possession arrests in Baltimore were of African Americans, one of the highest racial disparities in the USA.
Bill Quigley is a human rights lawyer and professor at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law. He is also a member of the legal collective of School of Americas Watch, and can be reached at email@example.com.
5 Things Everyone Needs to Know About Baltimore
By Michael Arria
April 28, 2015
Freddie Gray's family says 80% of his spine was severed and his voice box was crushed. It's believed that Gray was the victim of a "nickel ride," a purposely rough ride designed to dole out "street justice" to suspects. As David Graham wrote in the Atlantic, "Once Gray was in the van, he was handcuffed. Apparently because he was "irate" during the ride, officers stopped and shackled his legs, too. The one thing they didn't do was buckle his seat belt. Not only does that sound like common sense, it's also department policy—and BPD admits it was violated."
While news cameras have descended upon the city of Baltimore and knee-jerk analysis is being offered around the clock, it's important to keep some things in mind.
1. The six officers connected to the Gray case are on desk duty: Lieutenant Brian Rice. Sgt. Alicia White, Officer Caesar Goodson, Officer William Porter, Officer Garrett Miller, and Officer Edward Nero have been suspended until the investigation concludes, but will continue to earn their salaries.
2. Baltimore has paid out almost $6 million in police brutality settlements since 2011: Over 100 people have won court settlements against the Baltimore Police Department for excessive force, false arrest, or false imprisonment and the city has faced 317 lawsuits. An investigation by the Baltimore Sun told the story of Venus Green, an 87-year-old woman who asked for a warrant after police showed up at her house. Officers had responded because Green's grandson had been shot in the leg and a white officer insisted he had been shot inside Green's house. Green insisted that he hadn't and worried that her two dogs would attack if the house were searched. According to Green, the officer entered the house anyway, pushed her against a wall, and declared, “Bitch, you ain’t no better than any of the other old black bitches I have locked up."
"He pulled me up, pushed me in the dining room over the couch, put his knees in my back, twisted my arms and wrist and put handcuffs on my hands and threw me face down on the couch," Green told the paper. Green reached a settlement with the department in 2012. Many other victims of police brutality were unable to be interviewed for the story because of a clause in the city's agreement saying that victims can't talk about the incident that prompted their lawsuit. If they do, city lawyers are allowed to sue and potentially take back half of their total settlement.
3. Baltimore cops are sowing distrust in the community with claims that are likely false: The Baltimore Police Department claimed it had a "credible threat" of gangs uniting in order to "take out" police officers. However, the Bloods and Crips have seemingly brokered a truce so that they can protest police brutality. Do the cops simply assume this involves taking them out? Is it simply an excuse to inflict more violence? A man claiming to be a gang member told a local TV station, "We’ve been out here all day trying to prevent people from breaking the stores, (but) they hit us with a bomb, they burned my shirt, they ripped it and we were still standing right there, but we came right back there holding hands together and we march together, we’re still holding strong, and we want them to stop hurting us so we can just live our life and keep going."
As Michelle Alexander wrote on her Facebook page, "During the past few days, the mainstream media has (a) either ignored the fact that the Crips and Bloods in Baltimore entered a truce so they could march united in their demands for justice for Freddie Gray or (b) has repeated the sensational claims of law enforcement that the truce merely reflects some grand conspiracy to kill cops."
4. There have been multiple eyewitness accounts of cops terrifying young children and leaving them stranded:
5. At least 109 people have been killed by Baltimore police since 2010: Forty percent of those people were unarmed. Almost 70% of them were black. Less than 2% of the officers in these cases were criminally charged.
Michael Arria is the author of Medium Blue: The Politics of MSNBC . Follow @MichaelArria on Twitter.