I got no clue what happened. And I'm not going to say much till I do.
Keep in mind that Baltimore cops don't know what happened. But boy is this turning into quote a jackpot. A man died in police custody. Of a broken spine. Shit is hitting the fan. Six cops have been suspended (with pay).
It's slowly becoming national news (which is rare, when it comes to Baltimore police issues).
What we do know is that last Sunday morning police in the Western approached a group of people. A guy takes off running. Cops chase. Bike cops catch and arrest the guy, Freddie Gray for carrying a small knife. He gets put in a wagon. When Gray comes out of the wagon, he's seriously injured. He dies a week later.
From the New York Times:
“We have no evidence — physical, video or statements — of any use of force,” the deputy police commissioner, Jerry Rodriguez, said at the news conference. “He did suffer a very tragic injury to his spinal cord, which resulted in his death. What we don’t know, and what we need to get to, is how that injury occurred.”From the Sun:
Mr. Gray died Sunday, a week after his arrest. Witnesses captured parts of his encounter with the police on a cellphone video, in which screams can be heard as officers drag him into a transport van. An autopsy showed no wounds, except for the severed spinal cord, and the videos do not show the police acting forcefully.
On the way to the station, the van made at least two stops — including one in which Mr. Gray was taken out and placed in leg shackles after the driver complained he was “acting irate in the back,” Mr. Rodriguez said. After Mr. Gray arrived at Baltimore’s Western District station, police officers called medics, who took him to a hospital.
"When he was placed inside that van, he was able to talk, he was upset," Deputy Police Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez said. "And when Mr. Gray was taken out of the van, he could not talk, he could not breathe."But you need force from somewhere to be injured the way Gray was fatally injured. It is the responsibility of the wagonman (or woman) to make sure prisoners are safe and strapped down during transport.
Police said they used no undue force when arresting Gray and can find no evidence from cellphone and city surveillance videos that officers brutalized Gray. They said an autopsy shows no indication that force was used.
It seems we have what started as a case of "felony running." Running from police is not a a crime. But fleeing from police does give police reasonable suspicion to stop (Illinois v. Wardlow, 2000). We used to make fun of cops who caught a "felony runner." That would happen when somebody takes off. You chase them! It's natural. You're a cop. You catch them... and then you realize they haven't actually committed a crime. You search (I mean frisk) them hoping to find something. Anything. But if you don't, you have to let them go. You can't even get them for loitering. They weren't loitering if they ran. Now I wouldn't chase people just for running. But I could have, if I liked running more.
The court vague said you need something other than running, but that something can be almost anything including "high crime area" or "drug corner." So I'm willing to say the approach, the chase, the stop, the frisk, the search, and the arrest were all legal.
I'm not saying this is the case here, but just FYI, it is not uncommon in Baltimore for corner boys to assign one person to be a "runner," just to get police off on a wild goose chase. That could be some young kid. It could be a junkie.
Police pull up. Somebody runs. You can chase him. Or you can let him run. Personally, I'd prefer to grab the second guy who tried to get away, figuring he would be more likely to have the stash or a gun.
Now in this case Gray did have a small knife, for which he was arrested. (If you make cops chase you, they can be damn sure they will, as they should, lock you up for any legal reason.)
Meanwhile angry people think the police and politicians are covering things up. And yet most police officers also don't trust the department and politicians. I wrote about race and police attitudes towards the discipline process back in 2008 in "Two Shades of Blue." The idea is that the powers-that-be -- and Baltimore has a black mayor and black police commissioner -- will punish police officers, guilty or not, to placate the public. I assume that among the six suspended officers are those who made the arrest (I don't know if that's true). And yet the department has already said that things were OK when they handed off the prisoner. I hope they enjoy their paid days off.
Personally, it's worth noting my surprise that these Western officers were doing any work at all on a Sunday morning. That is not generally how we rolled in the Eastern. Maybe it's just because it's spring. And you it's spring in Baltimore because the bikes are in bloom.