Reprinted from Smirking Chimp
Once again, the nation watches as prosecutors deal with the killing of an unarmed black man.
"[The officers] failed to establish probable cause for Mr. Gray's arrest as no crime had been committed by Mr. Gray ... Accordingly, [he was] illegally arrested," Baltimore state's attorney Marilyn Mosby declared, as she announced the filing of criminal charges against the six officers implicated in Freddie Gray's death.
Gray made "eye contact" with Officer Brian Rice. Gray then ran from Rice, and Rice began chasing Gray. It was after Gray surrendered to Officers Garrett Miller and Edward Nero that Gray was taken on his fatal "rough ride."
A "rough ride" is an unsanctioned technique that some officers use to injure arrestees without physically touching them with their hands or weapons. The driver typically takes intentionally rough or rapid turns around corners or makes sudden stops. Since the suspect is handcuffed, he is unable to brace himself so he falls forward, often bashing his head against the inside of the van.
Like so many African American men before him in this country, Gray was guilty of nothing other than "walking while black." In his case, Baltimore's sordid history of racial and class oppression, combined with the war on drugs, made for a deadly combination.
"Probable cause was distorted by the drug war," David Simon, creator of The Wire, said in an interview with Bill Keller. Set in Baltimore, the award-winning HBO series portrayed the conflict between the police and African Americans in the streets, in a compelling work of historical fiction. "[T]he drug war was as much a function of class and social control as it was of racism," Simon added. "The drug war gives everybody permission to do anything. It gives cops permission to stop anybody, to go in anyone's pockets, to manufacture any lie when they get to district court." In short, under the guise of the war on drugs, Baltimore police have been harassing people for years. Simon added, "My own crew members [on The Wire] used to get picked up trying to come from the set at night ... Driving while black ... Charges were non-existent, or were dismissed en masse."
Scholar Richard Rothstein, a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute, documented more than 100 years of "federal, state, and local policies to quarantine Baltimore's black population in isolated slums." Rothstein does not think the answer lies in improving the quality of the police. He recognizes the frustration of those who engage in violent protest, as they have been denied the opportunity to become part of mainstream society. "When disadvantaged children are concentrated in separate schools, as they are in Baltimore, their disadvantages are exacerbated." Rothstein found, "Baltimore, not at all uniquely, has experienced a century of public policy designed, consciously so, to segregate and impoverish its black population."
The Supreme Court held in Illinois v. Wardlow that flight in a high-crime area may constitute reasonable suspicion for an officer to briefly detain an individual and determine whether there is evidence of criminal activity. After Miller and Nero handcuffed Gray, they put him in a prone position with his arms handcuffed behind his back. Gray said he couldn't breathe and requested an inhaler, "to no avail," according to Mosby. The officers found a legal pocketknife in Gray's pocket. But instead of releasing Gray, they put him back on his stomach and restrained him with a "leg lace" while waiting for the police wagon to transport him.
Miller and Nero loaded Gray into the wagon, which Officer Caesar Goodson drove. At no time was Gray secured by a seatbelt, in violation of Baltimore Police Department (BPD) policy. At Baker Street, Rice, Nero and Miller placed handcuffs and leg shackles on Gray. They then placed Gray on his stomach in the wagon, head first.
"Following transport from Baker Street," Mosby said, "Mr. Gray suffered a severe and critical neck injury as a result of being handcuffed, shackled by his feet and unrestrained inside of the BPD wagon."
Goodson stopped to check on Gray but "at no point did he seek nor did he render any medical assistance for Mr. Gray." At another stop, Goodson and Officer William Porter went to the back of the wagon to check on Gray, who requested help, said he couldn't breathe, and twice requested a medic. "At no point did either [Goodson or Porter] restrain Mr. Gray per BPD general order nor did they render or request medical assistance."
"Despite Mr. Gray's obvious and recognized need for medical assistance, Officer Goodson in a grossly negligent manner chose to respond to the 1600 block of West North Avenue with Mr. Gray still unsecured by a seatbelt in the wagon without rendering to or summoning medical assistance for Mr. Gray."
During still another stop, Officer Alicia White, Porter and Goodson "observed Mr. Gray unresponsive on the floor of the wagon." White, who was "responsible for investigating two citizen complaints pertaining to Mr. Gray's illegal arrest spoke to the back of Mr. Gray's head. When he did not respond, she did nothing further despite the fact that she was advised that he needed a medic. She made no effort to look or assess or determine his condition."
"Despite Mr. Gray's seriously deteriorating medical condition, no medical assistance was rendered or summoned for Mr. Gray at that time by any officer," Mosby added.
Goodson failed to restrain Gray with a seatbelt at least five different times.