It’s been five years since Baltimore Police mandated the death penalty for 25-year-old Freddie Gray, for the truly heinous crime of possessing a “switchblade.”
In those five years, police attempted to downplay the gravity of what Gray evidently endured during one of their notoriously signature “nickel rides” — but, as with any case of this magnitude, the truth trickled out only well after protests quelled and public outrage took aim at another of countless unjustified police homicides.
Telling is the mundanity in the news of legally-permissible, ethically-intolerable police violence — that Gray’s untimely and unnecessary demise has faded from headlines sardonically evinces this epidemic so many dismiss as unfounded until its frosty hand touches their lives.
After securing handcuffs and often leg restraints — but not belting passengers to the vehicle — officers transporting arrestees to the station, drive recklessly, purposefully doing their utmost to ensure maximum bumps, bruises, and worse — Gray’s spinal cord was almost entirely severed in what the medical examiner said resulted from a single, “high-energy” injury event.
His neck likely snapped upon impact when the officer driving slammed on the brakes — intentionally inflicting maximum damage upon Gray, who, of course, had yet to be tried, much less convicted, in a court of law.
That officers of the law, took it upon themselves to administer capital punishment, without the hindrance of the justice system, is the very definition of extrajudicial killing. Accordingly, Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced charges on May 1, 2015, and a grand jury indicted all six officers involved in Gray’s arrest and fatal transport less than a month later.
Progress cutting through the Thin Blue Line of impunity, it seemed, had been made — until each methodically escaped punishment for the ‘unofficially’ capital crime.
Despite a laundry list of charges from second-degree murder to second-degree manslaughter to misconduct in office, Lieutenant Brian Rice and Officers Edward Nero and Caesar Goodson were acquitted, while Officer Garrett Miller, Sergeant Alicia White, and Officer William Porter had charges dropped by the State.
No one has ever been punished for killing Freddie Gray.
On the two-year anniversary of Gray’s appalling killing, Rolling Stone explained,
“Freddie Gray became a national news story thanks to a man named Kevin Moore, who filmed the last few minutes of Gray’s arrest. After giving a copy of the video to investigators, Moore uploaded the footage online and it quickly went viral. It showed Gray being held face down on the sidewalk by officers Garrett Miller and Edward Nero, screaming in pain. His ankles were crossed and his knees bent, with Miller’s weight pushing his heels in his rear, a police hold known as a leg lace.
“While Moore’s video was shown in court at the police officers’ trials, he was never called to testify. Neither were any of the dozen-plus residents who witnessed Gray’s arrest that morning, despite many of them giving damning interviews to the media under their own names. Some of these witnesses were interviewed by detectives, but their accounts – of Taser use, of seeing an officer put his knee in Gray’s neck, of Freddie crying out that they were hurting his back and his legs – were dismissed by both the police and prosecutors. Other officers who were present during the arrest, but weren’t charged, testified that Gray was only trying to attract attention, but witnesses maintain his screams were real.”
Rolling Stone interviewed some of the witnesses in revisiting what happened to Gray during that ordeal — something that can’t be said of the State’s Attorney’s Office, whose investigators had claimed to be performing an independent probe.
Yet, a number of eyewitnesses who spoke with local and national media outlets were never contacted by detectives or investigators.
“You can hear him making noise, like, he’s in pain,” Jacqueline Jackson, who saw the second of several stops during Gray’s transport from the vantage point of her kitchen window, told Rolling Stone for its series, Undisclosed. “It was just sad.… I told them, ‘What are y’all doing to that young man?’ They told me I needed to mind my M-Fing business.”
Jackson observed three officers try once to stuff the young African American man into the back of the transport van after shackling his legs — then “they threw him face down, head first and hard into the metal van compartment. Even from inside her house, she could hear a loud thump, followed by Gray’s moans.”
Eventually, the callous officers found Gray unresponsive and summoned emergency services. After a week-long coma, the young man — whose weapon, in actuality, did not violate the law — succumbed to those maliciously-inflicted injuries.
Discrepancies in nearly every aspect of the case remain and never have been explained by police or prosecutors. Optimistically speaking of our Injustice System, they probably never will.
Freddie Gray — like Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Dylan Noble, Philando Castile, and a disturbingly lengthy list of others — will only have died needlessly when his name ceases to roll from lips recounting that period when the American Police State shed pretense and began to flex its authoritarian self.
This near pandemic-level police brutality and impunity exists to test the boundaries of public tolerance to the unacceptable. It’s a sick method, if perhaps tacit, that a State cognizant of discontent among the citizenry repeatedly pushes the limits of acceptability.
And when police find murmurings of support from the mouths of those who would sooner have violent revolution than be visited with a similar tragedy at the whims of police, there will be no solutions to this problem.
Instead of justice, five of his excused killers summoned the deplorable gall to sue Mosby for false arrest, false imprisonment, and defamation of character — claiming the arrest had been lawful and justified, despite the determination Gray’s knife was legal.
Freddie Gray should still be alive — and the lack of punishment for his death and thousands of other police victims paints a dire picture of just how acceptable State violence has become.