Government officials in the city of Baltimore will pay $6.4 million in taxpayer dollars to the family and estate of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old man who sustained fatal neck injuries while in police custody last April. The incident resulted in several nights of protests and rioting and six cops have been charged with his murder.
He died from a broken neck allegedly caused by a “rough ride” in the back of a police van following his arrest. The officer who was driving the police van has been charged with second-degree murder. Three other officers are charged with manslaughter and two with assault.
Now, maybe this was a wrongful or even an intentional death for which the city is liable and maybe it wasn’t, but one thing is certain: the officials are proposing this settlement long before all the evidence is adduced and the public knows what happened and who is responsible. The police officers accused in the case haven’t even been tried yet. There hasn’t even been a civil lawsuit filed yet.
This "should not be interpreted as a judgment on the guilt or innocence of the officers facing trial," says Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. “This settlement is being proposed solely because it is in the best interest of the city.”
Well, if the officers aren’t guilty of wrongfully or intentionally causing Gray’s death, then the city isn’t liable, and if the city isn’t liable how can it be in the best interests of the city? If the cops weren’t legally responsible then there is no reason on Earth for the taxpayers to have to shell out $6.4 million. Even if this was a wrongful death, are the damages to the estate really $6.4 million?
“To suggest that there is any reason to settle prior to the adjudication of the pending criminal cases is obscene,” said Fraternal Order of Police president Gene Ryan.
Gray was raised in a fatherless home by his mother who couldn’t read, was on welfare and addicted to heroin. He was unemployed at the time of his death. In school he read at a level four grades behind. He had a lengthy criminal record having been arrested 18 times, mostly for narcotics offenses.
Assuming this were a legitimate wrongful case death for which the city was liable, the total damages wouldn’t come close to $1 million much less $6.4 million. He was unemployed. No one depended on him for support. He wasn’t supporting his mother. But she will receive $5.6 million in the settlement. His father, who had abandoned the family long ago, will get $640,000. The remainder of $400,000 will be paid to the estate.
In short, the taxpayers of Baltimore are screwed again.