The mysterious death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who was denied medical attention and died from a severe spinal injury while in police custody, has led many to question how often suspects obtain injuries from their encounters with police officers, and how many of them receive proper medical care.
The Baltimore Sun reported that according to records obtained through a Maryland Public Information Act request, the Baltimore City Detention Center has “refused to admit nearly 2,600 detainees who were in police custody” between June 2012 and April 2015, with intake officers citing injuries such as “fractured bones, facial trauma and hypertension.”
While the records obtained by the Sun redacted the names of the detainees, the report used the story of Salahudeen Abdul-Aziz as an example of what many suspects endure. Abdul-Aziz was denied entry to Baltimore’s detention center after he was brought in by police with a broken nose, a fractured face and other injuries. He went to court, on the claim that he had been beaten by police and then arrested, and he was awarded $170,000 by a jury in 2011.
In Gray’s case, he was arrested on April 12, after he made eye contact with Baltimore Police Lieutenant Brian Rice, and then took off running. Rice, who had been suspended from the Baltimore Police Department and had his guns confiscated twice for mental health issues and for reported stalking, harassment and threats of violence, pursued Gray and arrested him, claiming that he was carrying an illegal knife.
Both a picture of the knife Gray was carrying, and an explanation behind the cause of the severe spinal injury that led to his death on April 19, have yet to be made public.
State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced on May 1 that the knife Gray was carrying was legal, that Gray was arrested illegally, and his death was ultimately ruled a homicide. Six officers have been charged for Gray’s death and they were all released on bonds ranging from $250,000 to $350,000 the same day.
Gray, who was healthy prior to his arrest, is suspected to have severed his spine during the 45 minutes he spent in a police transport van, which made four stops on its way to the jail. According to Mosby, at least five of Gray’s requests for medical attention were not answered by officers.
The Baltimore Sun reported that after investigating over 100 lawsuits against Baltimore city police officers, where the city “paid more than $6 million in court judgments and settlements,” it found that “dozens of residents accused police of inflicting severe injuries during questionable arrests and disregarding appeals for medical attention.”
While some criminologists and law enforcement experts say that suspects often fake injuries to avoid being put in a jail cell, the Sun noted that they also say Gray’s death “shows that police lack adequate training to detect injuries.”
A. Dwight Pettit, an attorney who has sued many Baltimore officers over the last 40 years, told the Baltimore Sun the data proves that the officers don’t really care about their public.
“It goes to demonstrate the callous indifference the officers show when they are involved with the public,” said Pettit. “Why would they render medical care when they rendered many of the injuries on the people?”
On Wednesday, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced that she has asked the Department of Justice to investigate the city’s police force for the practices of excessive use of force and civil rights violations.