Baltimore to Pay Freddie Gray’s Family $6.4M in Wrongful Death Settlement
Gray died 12 April after suffering a spine injury while in police custody
Six police officers still face criminal charges stemming from his death
Jon Swaine in New York | @jonswaine
Tuesday 8 September 2015 11.27 EDT
The city of Baltimore has agreed to pay a $6.4m settlement to the family of Freddie Gray, whose death in custody earlier this year sparked several nights of protests and rioting.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in a statement on Tuesday she had proposed the payout in order to avoid “costly and protracted litigation” from the Gray family that she said “would only make it more difficult for our city to heal”.
“This settlement is being proposed solely because it is in the best interest of the city,” said Rawlings-Blake.
The mayor stressed, however, that the settlement should not be seen as an admission of guilt by city authorities. Six police officers involved in Gray’s arrest in April are being criminally prosecuted over his death.
Attorneys for Gray’s family, who had been negotiating with city officials in advance of a potential civil lawsuit, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the settlement. Rawlings-Blake said the settlement would “resolve all civil claims”.
Gray, who was 25, died on 19 April from a broken neck allegedly caused by a so-called “rough ride” without a seatbelt in the back of a police van following his arrest on 12 April. Gray was arrested after catching the eye of a patrolling officer and running away.
He was charged with the illegal possession of a knife that was found in his pocket. Prosecutors allege, however, that the arrest was illegal because the knife was in fact legal to carry.
Gray’s death was followed by the most serious civil unrest seen in the US since the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August last year. Protesters in Baltimore clashed with police in riot gear and several buildings were burned.
The officer who was driving the police van, Caesar Goodson, has been charged with criminal counts as high as second-degree murder. Three other officers – lieutenant Brian Rice, sergeant Alicia White and officer William Porter – are charged with manslaughter. Officers Garrett Miller and Edward Nero are charged with assault.
All the officers have pleaded not guilty and are free on bail ranging from $250,000 to $350,000.
A judge in Baltimore last week granted the six officers separate trials after their attorneys successfully argued that having them prosecuted in two groups, as state’s attorney Marilyn Mosby had proposed, was “not in the interest of justice”.
The judge rejected an attempt to have Mosby excluded from the case. Defense attorneys argued that remarks she made when announcing the criminal charges were prejudicial to a fair trial. They also unsuccessfully alleged that the fact her husband, a city councilman, represented an area affected by unrest, would make her biased.
Rawlings-Blake said in her statement that $2.8m of the settlement would be paid during this year and $3.6 million in 2016. The payout must be officially authorized on Wednesday by a panel of senior city officials that controls public spending.