Freddie Gray died Sunday the 19th of April, 2015 while in custody of Baltimore police. He was only 25 years old. He was in custody because an officer patrolling a drug heavy area on the 12th of April spotted and made eye contact with Gray. Gray took off and several officers ran after him, eventually catching him.
Gray was then arrested for possession of a switchblade. Video footage shows the police roughly handling Gray while escorting him to a police van. Gray was put in handcuffs and leg restraints while in the vehicle, but was not wearing a seatbelt. It is the officer’s responsibility to strap a suspect in safely, to avoid injury.
Before the 30 minute ride, Gray was articulate and clearly upset. After he was taken out of the van, his speech was completely hindered and he could not breathe. It is still not clear whether Gray was injured while being walked to the van, or during the ride.
Gray easily could be tossed around in the back of the van causing a spinal injury. There have been cases of suspects becoming paralyzed and seriously injured because they were not properly secured in a police van.
A union lawyer for the police department argued not strapping Gray in was for the officers own safety. He stated the back of the van was too small for the officer to safely enter and strap Gray in.
Wasn’t Gray in handcuffs and leg restraints though? The police even placed Gray in leg irons because the driver noticed he became “irate”.
According to the charging document, police noticed Gray had suffered injury during the ride, and was transported to Shock Trauma.
He was then transferred into custody. His spine was 80 percent severed at the neck. He then entered into a coma, died, resuscitated, stayed in a coma, and died Sunday. All while in custody.
Reasonable Suspicion vs. Probable Cause
Reasonable suspicion is needed in order for police to stop a person. If no reasonable suspicion exists, the officer can face charges of an unlawful stop. Gray’s attorney argues the police had no reasonable suspicion to stop him, but I would argue differently.
As soon as Gray made eye contact with the police officer, he started running. Is this not suspicious? If Gray was truly innocent, he would have no reason to run away. He was also in an area known for drug use. These two factors give the police enough reasonable suspicion to catch up to him and detain him.
Probable cause to arrest Gray is what the police officers lacked. Police need enough probable cause (possession of narcotics, evidence of assault, etc.) to arrest a person they stop. Gray was in possession of a “weapon”, but the pocket knife he carried was of legal size according to his family attorney. The police found nothing else on Gray, and therefore lacked enough probably cause to arrest him.
Gray should never have been put in custody.