The name this time around is Freddie Gray, the city this time is Baltimore, and the death this time was from complications of a massive spinal injury suffered while in police custody.
Relatives, activists and even Baltimore city officials have more questions than answers about what happened to Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died one week after he was rushed to the hospital with spinal injuries following an encounter with four Baltimore police officers.
Gray, who died Sunday morning at a University of Maryland trauma center, was stopped by Baltimore police officers on bike patrol April 12. Police have said Gray was running away from the officers when he was arrested and placed in a transport van. About 30 minutes later, Gray was rushed to the hospital in critical condition, according to police.
Billy Murphy, an attorney for Gray’s family, said Sunday that 80 percent of the man’s spinal cord had been severed near his neck.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and top police officials promised accountability and transparency Sunday at a news conference at City Hall.
Sure, that’ll happen. Six police officers have now been suspended (with pay, of course) pending an investigation. But I’m sure they’ll say they “feared for their life” and well, Freddie Gray had a switchblade strapped to his leg, so of course they had to break his goddamn spine. Or maybe he slipped on a banana peel. Hell, we may never know, right?
What I do know is that this isolated, tragic incident will happen again at another police department somewhere in America, and very soon. Another incident will follow from that. And another. And another.
And nothing will change.
I saw an article on MSNBC where it said that none of the 6 officers reported any struggle during the arrest or reported any scuffle during the apprehension. Of course they didn’t.
Yep, that settles it. If the cops dont remember busting his neck, it must have busted itself. Happens all the time in custody, I hear. Weird how defective spines only occur with AA males; it’s the sickle cell of the CNS.
I disagree that nothing will change. I think police abuse/murders of civilians is on the radar screens now.
And I think more and more people are making the connection that “the cops are whacked out because there are so many guns out there, they don’t know what they’re dealing with” (among other issues).
Great tragedy for Freddie Gray, and Walter Scott, and Eric Harris, and Michael Brown, and Eric Garner, and all the other dead souls and their families. We know their names and faces now.
But I think we’re going to see change in policing, police/first responder funding, and even more reasonable gun control, flow out of what’s happening now. May take a while, but you can’t unsee what’s going on.
Double down cops, double down, you know everyone’s likely paying attention. Like the HS kids earlier, you enforce your social norms and win friends by putting on a uniform, wielding intimidation, violence and and instilling fear.
peach flavored shampoo
I’ve noticed the “get out of jail free” card du jour is “I thought he was reaching for his waistband”. Every cop is now using it. With a human’s hands naturally hanging down around that area, it’s a bulletproof excuse, as the hands are bound to be in that area at some point.
And it’s not even “he was reaching…”, it’s “I thought he was reaching….” which makes it an unprovable subjective interpretation that a jury cannot disprove.
Everyone knows how this happened.
Didja see this one?
Cop sees people standing around, tells them to be quiet. Says he thought one was going for a gun. Runs away, firing five times over his shoulder. He misses the guy he was trying to murder and kills a woman standing near him. The guy was pulling out a phone.
Would you like to guess what the outcome was?
I would really like to see how a “feared for their life” claim works when the injuries took place after Gray had been arrested and presumably secured. I’m also pretty sure that the switchblade had been taken away from him by this time.
But damn, even the circumstances of the arrest sounds foul. According to the news story link, Gray was stopped because he “fled unprovoked upon noticing police presence.” No actual crime had been committed, nor was there much in the way of probable cause for an arrest.
Running from the cops is presumption of guilt for …. something.
Also, it’s sinking in that some cops lie. And that there are badly run and corrupt police departments. That’s an unwelcome fact for many, but something that might make a difference with upcoming juries.
Wonder if they have a black site like Chicago…
I just want, one time, for a nut-busting prosecutor to mock one of these Heroes in Blue© on one of these sobbing “I feared for my life, he was reaching for his waistband, he was big black and scary” claims. Reduce the fucker to sobs, drill straight down into why the hero was so in fear of his life. Use mocking, scornful language.
Maybe have a prosecutor on the cusp of retirement do it.
That’s fair — presumption of innocence. But if they are found guilty of serious misbehavior they should have to pay it all back.
Of course, it is common for people’s spinal cords to be cut 80% of the way through while they are enjoying a ride in a police van. Baltimore potholes are notorious. Given how normal that is, I can hardly see grounds for suspecting wrongdoing on the part of police. I mean, it’s not like we have a problem in this country with police ever using excessive force, and their record for accurately reporting events is virtually perfect (see Slager), including admitting to getting carried away occasionally in the spirit of cop camaraderie and playfulness. I’m sure this whole affair will be cleared up and forgotten in a week and the police involved will go back to work after a nice paid vacation.
Bike cops. They broke his neck when they tackled him. Probably doing at least fifteen to twenty miles an hour. Pretty much like getting hit by a car.
He was already paralyzed, which was why they had to drag him into the car. Then they made it much worse with the usual “fuck your breathing” attitude, until he did, indeed, quit breathing in the back of the squad car.
I’d say the switchblade aspect of this is comical, but nothing is comical when yet another citizen dies at the hands of cops, and we keep letting it happen.
Steve Biko, anyone? We’re no better than Apartheid South Africa.
@mere mortal: That’s a great article.
Here they take people and put them face down on the floor of a squad car and drive full speed over speedbumps. No special van required.
And the lesson of that report? Buy safer vans with seat belts and padding…when they should be buying better police officers.
I don’t know. I’ll wait and see with this one, but there may actually be some justice to come out of this. The police commissioner is a new guy from Oakland who instituted body cameras over there and is trying to do the same over here. And he has repeatedly vowed to arrest any officer of his who harms the community.
Plus Baltimore is majority black and nearly all of the politicians are black.
Um, the dead woman was charged with unlawful possession of a police bullet?
Sadly, the outcomes of these events are often only slightly less ridiculous than that. But they just keep happening. Don’t police officers watch the news or read a newspaper? You’d think that with all the publicity the recent deaths have had the police would be cooling it, if only a little. They’re either psychotic and unable to control their behavior or they must feel that the machine will let them off, because it always has before.
“There’s no law against running,” said the police commissioner. But it’s pretty obvious that running can get you killed when the police are involved. Especially if you’re an African American male.
How firing blindly over a shoulder doesn’t rise to reckless behavior, I’ll never figure out. It didn’t even go to trial. The judge said there wasn’t enough evidence to prove the charges so why bother.
Seriously. The facts of the case was a guy firing over his shoulder, from his car, into a group of people, one of which was pulling something out, and hit a person in the back of their head.
Nope. Not reckless enough if you’re a cop for manslaughter trial.
@Elizabelle: Let’s not call ourselves “civilians”. It’s bad enough when the armed gangsters do that.
Oh forgot to add off duty cop that went up to the group and demanded they quiet down in a public park.
@Bobby B.: Yeah, I should have said “the public.”
Prob is, police seeing themselves as warriors and military grade. They are not. That is not their duty or mission. Gets to that stage, you are looking at police failure.
Police-Involved Shootings Highlight Problem With Law Enforcement ‘Culture’
(short, and has a transcript)
When you militarize the police, the public becomes the enemy. And that’s the point we’ve reached in US law enforcement.
@Cacti: I pointed out some months ago that the Policeone blog had closed off its comments section to “civilians” (no viewing) and continue to wonder if this is due to more fear of scrutiny by outsiders like myself.
John M. Burt
I’m sure it has been offered to reporters, but I haven’t heard it yet: what makes body cameras such a deadly danger that only a fool would suggest police wear them?
Is it possible that these self-styled Rambos are enjoying a little Anabolic Roid Rage?
Tree With Water
@Elizabelle: I believe you correct. Cause and effect… and time. It’s the nutshell in which rests my theory that the country is bound to go the way of California in repudiating the brand name, because the national GOP has gone the way of California’s republican party– which is to say, it’s been hijacked by mean spirited political fanatics (well financed political fanatics, it’s worth noting).
“The history of American democracy is the gradual realization, too slow for some and too rapid for others, of the implications of the Declaration of Independence”. Ralph Barton Perry; Puritanism and Democracy
More from Seth Stoughton, NYTimes Opinionator blog (links to other good essays too): updated on April 9, 2015
Police Shouldn’t Ask If a Shooting Is Justified, But If It’s Avoidable
He linked to this Dept of Justice PDF: interim report of The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, March 2015
@Tree With Water: Yeah, I am delighted to see what’s happened politically in California. Great governor, a GOP roadblock that can’t do as much harm anymore because it’s been marginalized, citizens commissions to draw political districts.
The drought, not so much, but at least you’ve got mostly sane political leadership.
Another NYTimes Opinionator, from November 25, 2014: Does Ferguson Show that Cops Who Kill Get off too easily?
Included is another Seth Stoughton essay on Trust is an Officer’s Greatest Protection.
And an essay by Katherine Spillar, More Women on the Beat would stem violence. Also Erwin Chemerinsky of UC Irvine: The Deck is Stacked in Favor of the Police. (No sh*t Sherlock there. But it has to change.)
Billy Murphy is the lawyer who got Clay Davis off.
He’s who I would want in my corner for just about any legal difficulty.
In the neighbor of being related. Has this come up for discussion already?
they couldn’t even give the REASON as to why he was arrested.
they MURDERED HIM.
You know it’s completely possible that the injury was a complete accident caused by tackling the guy who was running away. I’d like to give the cops the benefit of the doubt……..but we are way past the point where that is possible. There is a cancer that has overtaken police culture in this country. Particularly in metropolitan regions. I wonder if a large part of the militarization of the police has to do with the fact that so many military vets now go into law enforcement. It really seems like LEA is the primary choice for a huge part of vets fresh from leaving the military. I really don’t think this was the case in the 70’s 80’s or even 90’s. I mean there were always bad cops, and racist cops, but the hyper-aggressive paradigm that seems to exist is palpably different than it used to be. I’m sure if I were a black guy my response would be, “not really”, but it just seems different.
I also wonder if part of the problem is coming from the right wing noise machine. Cops in general tend to be right wing, and for 25 years now the right wing media has engaged in eliminationist rhetoric. Always framing things in militaristic terms, constantly fear-mongering, and portraying our society as us vs. them, or being at war. I imagine if that is what you consume, then that is what you internalize.
Plus, we as a society tell cops lies. Cops are always told that they have one of the most dangerous jobs. Simply not true. In fact I don’t believe it’s even in the top 20. Most deaths of on duty cops are heart attacks, followed by car accidents. Incidents of cops actually being shot, while always a prospective danger, is nearly non-existent. It is way more dangerous to be a commercial fisherman, or an electrician. So maybe we contribute to their paranoia by perpetuating the falsehood that they are in such imminent danger. Regardless, the current police culture is badly broken, and poses serious problems to our society if left unaddressed
@CONGRATULATIONS!: You can see in the video that the poor man couldn’t walk or even hold his head up. His head was flopping and bobbing. The police officers probably did more damage while moving Freddie to the van. When there is spinal injury, the person should be put in a brace, immobilized and moved with extreme care. The bike patrol officers killed him.
They probably didn’t set out to deliberately sever his spine, no. But it doesn’t even matter (and I know you’re not saying it was OK). They had no reason to tackle him, they dragged him along when he was obviously injured and in terrible pain, and they didn’t get him any medical attention for like half an hour. Absolute disregard for the humanity of the person they were apprehending.
We consistently see officers killing people holding rocks(L.A.), jewler’s screwdrivers(Here in NC, schizo-effective underweight teen who was already restrained), wood carving knives(Deaf Native American walking away from officer in Seattle).
Officers are killing people they positvely know are not holding a gun and are not a credible threat (but as long as they say “he was holding insert here . I was afraid for my life” it is magically swept away, no matter how utterly proposterous the circumstance)
It isn’t the presence of guns.
It is the warrior us vs them mindset that has been taught for 30 years.
Read today in the LA Times that 3 cops are under arrest for assault under color of law in three different incidents. All of them have video from security cameras. The reports are chilling, as all of them are. One of them it sounded like 2 or 3 officers made an arrest and were dealing with the situation in an appropriate manner when another cop arrived and started kicking the man on the ground who had his hands behind his back and was not fighting back at all. He was cooperating fully.
Saw a dashcam video yesterday out of a patrol car following a man with a rifle and another police car speeds by and runs him over. At speed. Into a block wall. No attempt made to stop the man or find out what is going on, just run him over.