Freddie Gray settlement ‘obscene,’ police union chief says

A $6.4 million settlement for the family of Freddie Gray was formally approved Wednesday by a Baltimore financial board despite complaints from the police union president that the deal was “obscene.”

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and the other four members of the city’s Board of Estimates unanimously approved the deal, which covers the city, police department and the officers included in wrongful death claims brought by Gray’s family.

Rawlings-Blake stressed that the settlement was in no way related to criminal proceedings involving the six police officers charged in connection with Gray’s death.

“The purpose of the civil settlement is to bring an important measure of closure to the Gray family, to the community and to the city,” Rawlings-Blake said after the vote. “And and to avoid years and years of protracted civil litigation.”

Billy Murphy, lawyer for the Gray family, said the settlement “represents civil justice” and will have a calming impact on the city. He expressed gratitude on behalf of the family for the city’s push to equip all officers with body cameras. Rawlings-Blake said a pilot program will start soon in Gray’s neighborhood.

“I thank you and your colleagues for your leadership in making sure Freddie Gray did not die in vain,” Murphy said.

Gray, 25, was critically injured during or immediately after his April arrest and died one week later. The city exploded in violence, and protests were held in cities across the nation. The tragedy was one in a series of cases nationwide involving the death of black men at the hands of police.

New York City agreed in July to a $5.9 million settlement with the family of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who died in a confrontation with police. That deal was struck months after a grand jury in Staten Island declined to indict any officers in Garner’s death.

Announcement of the Baltimore deal Tuesday had brought an angry response from Fraternal Order of Police president Gene Ryan, who urged the Board of Estimates to reject it. He said the settlement would damage efforts to return to “pre-riot normalcy” – and the relationship between the city and its police officers.

“To suggest that there is any reason to settle prior to the adjudication of the pending criminal cases is obscene,” Ryan said.

Rawlings-Blake said Wednesday that she was “baffled” by Ryan’s statements.

“All this settlement does is remove civil liability from the six officers,” she said. “It ensures that the end of the criminal trial is the end (of litigation) for those officers. … There will be closure.”

She said that, if she were Ryan, she would be thankful for the deal. She added that each officer has the right to opt out of the settlement and take their chances in civil court.

David Harris, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh, told the Associated Pres that lawyers for the officers will almost certainly raise the settlement issue in seeking to move the trials out of Baltimore.

“They tell us it’s by no way an admission of fault by the police officers,” Harris told AP. “If I was an attorney for a defendant I’d be revising my (venue) motion right now to say the settlement was made to persuade the jury pool that the officers did something wrong.”

Police said the confrontation with Gray began April 12 in a high-crime area of the city after he and another man spotted officers and started running away. Gray, arrested after being pursued on foot, was handcuffed and restrained inside a police vehicle. He suffered a severe spinal injury and died a week later.

An autopsy report revealed Gray died of a “high-energy injury” that likely happened when the police van suddenly slowed down.

Gray’s death and investigations that followed ultimately led to the firing of Police Commissioner Anthony Batts.

“I want to extend my most sincere condolences to the family of Freddie Gray,” Rawlings-Blake said. “I hope that this settlement will bring some measure of closure to his family and his friends.”

Source: MSN News

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