Freddie Carlos Gray Jr. was 25 years old and had experienced multiple medical, behavioral and educational problems as a result of exposure to high levels of lead in the family’s rental home as a child. On April 12, 2015, Baltimore police officers arrested Freddie for illegal possession of a switchblade. The state attorney’s office noted the knife recovered from Freddie was not a switchblade but instead a spring-assisted knife, which is legal to carry under Maryland law. Nevertheless, a police task force still claimed the knife violated Baltimore code, thereby supporting Freddie’s arrest.
Bystander video recordings of Freddie’s arrest show him being pinned to the ground with his arms in handcuffs behind him, screaming in pain, while police officers are on top of him. The video also shows him being dragged by police into a transport van, his legs appearing to be weak. Multiple bystanders claim Freddie was tased, explaining why he could not use his legs, but police reports deny tasers were discharged. Videos at other stops also support eyewitness accounts of Freddie having his legs shackled and being violently tossed into the van headfirst on multiple accounts. The videos also capture police uttering “jail, jail, jail,” which bystanders said were directed at them to warn them not to interfere. In the final report upon the closing of Freddie’s case, witness statements were not included. Instead, witnesses were shockingly represented by mugshots, criminal histories and brief notes by investigators.
Not once was Freddie properly secured in the transport van, which is in violation of Baltimore police department policy. Some allege that the driver intentionally took sharp turns, allowing Freddie’s body to be thrown around without the ability to brace himself. Baltimoreans call it a “rough ride.” This dangerous practice was widely exposed after Freddie Gray’s death.
When the transport van arrived at the police station, Freddie was motionless and not breathing. He was rushed to a local hospital where he died after lying in a coma for a week. The autopsy report ruled Freddie’s death a homicide as a result of severe spinal cord injury.
Freddie Gray’s injudicious arrest and avoidable death sparked national protests calling attention to police brutality and botched investigations, including claims of police cover-ups. Despite the homicide ruling in the autopsy, one officer received a mistrial, three officers were acquitted of all charges, and charges against the remaining two police officers were dropped. The City of Baltimore settled with Freddie Gray’s family for $6.4 million.