Freddie Gray


Adam Shatz in the LRB:

Gray was killed by a novel method: he was driven while black. Three police officers on bike patrol saw him at 8.30 a.m. on 12 April. It’s not clear why he was a person of interest, other than that he was a young black male. They made eye contact, and he ran, for reasons unknown. The officers arrested him and placed him face down. Unable to breathe, he asked for an inhaler, to no avail. The officers found a sliding knife on him, which is legal to carry, but charged him with possession of a switchblade, which isn’t. He was then shackled, placed in the back of a police wagon and driven without a seatbelt, as required by department regulations. By 8.59 a.m., he had suffered a major injury to his spinal cord. Again, he said that he couldn’t breathe and asked for medical assistance. The police waited another 25 minutes before calling for a medic. Gray died in hospital a week later.

This account of Gray’s killing was presented, in riveting, forensic detail, by Marilyn Mosby, the state’s attorney for Baltimore City, at a press conference on 1 May. Toward the end of her 16-minute speech, Mosby, a 35-year-old African-American woman, did the unthinkable: she charged six police officers with crimes ranging from murder to involuntary manslaughter. She promised justice to Gray’s parents and pleaded for peace so that she could do her work. Her press conference was as swift as it was bold. When someone dies in their custody, the Maryland police are not required to say anything until ten days later, a law that has been widely criticised by local politicians. Mosby beat the police to it, and made plain that it was unacceptable for them to leak details of the investigation. Black Baltimore, expecting an official whitewash, was electrified.

More here.