The rift between the Black community and law enforcement is continuing to grow in Baltimore as the story behind the death of Freddie Gray continues to evolve.
To nobody’s surprise, the more details that emerge in the death of the Baltimore man who died from a serious injury to his spine after being arrested, the more frustrated communities become with what seems to be an irrefutable lack of concern for Black lives.
Rather than seem remorseful about the fact that Gray’s injuries sent him to an early grave, a police union lawyer that represents at least one of the officers under investigation seemed to blame Gray for his own injuries even after it was revealed that the officers did not strap on Gray’s seatbelt in the transportation vehicle—an action required by department rules.
The lawyer insisted, however, that a handcuffed and shackled Gray was too violent for officers to safely secure him with a seatbelt inside the unit.
“Policy is policy, practice is something else,” the attorney, Michael Davey, told the Associated Press. “It is not always possible or safe for officers to enter the rear of those transport vans that are very small, and this one was very small.”
Police did have contact with Gray again after he was inside the back of the van, however.
Gray was initially placed in the back with only handcuffs before officers pulled over to add leg restraints during the trip back to the police station.
According to this scenario, officers felt safe enough having contact with Gray to add the restraints, but when it came to fastening his seatbelt they felt under threat.
What’s even more troubling is the very reason the department policies now require a seat belt for suspects during transport: Gray is not the first suspect to receive this sort of injury while in Baltimore police custody.
“Unbelted detainees have been paralyzed and even killed by rough rides in what used to be called ‘paddy wagons,’” CBS News reports.
Six months ago the Baltimore Police Department promised to address the wave of brutality against prisoners being transported and ultimately enacted the new requirement for buckling suspects in.
To suggest that a handcuffed suspect in foot restraints is too dangerous to put in a seat belt is exactly the type of response from law enforcement that is causing protests in Baltimore to grow at such a rapid pace.
Maryland’s governor decided to send state troopers to Baltimore as the number of protesters have multiplied.
“There’s raw emotions,” Gov. Larry Hogan said, according to the Capital Gazette. “People legitimately have concerns, and the community is out in force protesting. I want to thank the folks involved in that. So far it has been peaceful. We want to try to keep things under control.”
But as Gov. Hogan thanked protesters for being peaceful, tensions peaked again as police union president Gene Ryan referred to the protesters as a “lynch mob” on Saturday.
Ironically enough, that comparison was rooted in the protesters’ call for the officers to face jail time “without them ever receiving the due process that is the constitutional right of every citizen.”
It’s the same constitutional right that Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson stripped away from unarmed teen Michael Brown, North Charleston officer Michael Slager snatched away from 50-year-old Walter Scott and Baltimore officers stole from Freddie Gray.
Kevin Moore, the man that filmed Gray’s arrest, just hopes that maybe his video will be one of the few that actually results in justice and accountability.
He talked to the Baltimore Sun about his frustrations with police brutality aimed at the Black community and just how disconcerting Gray’s arrest really was.
As the officers continuously yelled for Gray to stop resisting arrest, video shows little evidence to support the idea that he was even putting up a fight.
In fact, he was barely able to walk on his own over to the transport van.
“They had him folded up like he was a crab or a piece of origami,” Moore added. “He was all bent up.”
It isn’t clear if the fatal injuries to his spine occurred during the arrest or during transportation and an official cause for his severed spinal cord has yet to be announced to the public.