Freddie Gray

Freddie Gray's 'Nickel Ride' Will Cost Baltimore $6.4 Million

Settlement announced in man's death while in police custody


Freddie Gray died in the custody of Balitmore Police. He was banged up so badly in the back of police van in the process of being transported to jail for allegedly possessing an illegal switchblade, his spine was injured, he slipped into a coma and died. His death was ruled a homicide. Six police officers face various charges for his death and Baltimore has faced anger and unrest from citizens since the April incident.

While the city works on making its criminal case against the police officers, it appears it wants to resolve the civil case, and they're sparing no expense. Today, media outlets are reporting that Baltimore will pay Gray's family a massive sum—$6.4 million—over two years to settle a civil suit. The Baltimore Sun notes that this payment would be larger than the total for all the other civil police misconduct suits (all 120 of them!) brought against the city since 2011:

The city is accepting all civil liability in Gray's arrest and death, but does not acknowledge any wrongdoing by the police, according to a statement from [Mayor Stephanie] Rawlings-Blake's administration.

"The proposed settlement agreement going before the Board of Estimates should not be interpreted as a judgment on the guilt or innocence of the officers facing trial," the mayor said in a statement. "This settlement is being proposed solely because it is in the best interest of the city, and avoids costly and protracted litigation that would only make it more difficult for our city to heal and potentially cost taxpayers many millions more in damages."

The state actually caps most police abuse civil settlements at $400,000, The Baltimore Sun notes, but governments can negotiate higher payouts. The city has been forthcoming in some previous cases, but not all of them:

The city paid out $6 million about a decade ago to a man who become paralyzed from the neck down as the result of a van ride. A jury had awarded Jeffrey Alston $39 million in 2004 case, but the amount was reduced through the city settlement.

In another case, the state Court of Special Appeals reduced a $7.4 million jury award to the family of Dondi Johnson Sr. to $219,000. Johnson was paralyzed, and died two weeks later, after a 2005 police van ride that fractured his neck.

Reason's coverage of Freddie Gray's death, and the outcry that followed, can be read through here