The city of Baltimore has agreed to pay the family of Freddie Gray a whopping $6.4 million to settle claims stemming from his death in police custody last April, even though the criminal cases related to his death are still unresolved.
The settlement technically isn’t final yet, but is expected to be approved by the city spending panel at a meeting Wednesday. The $6.4 million will be paid out in two annual installments.
Under the settlement, Baltimore accepts all civil liability for Gray’s death, but does not admit any wrongdoing by its police officers, who are still facing criminal charges in the matter.
The payout is an enormous one for the city of Baltimore. According to The Baltimore Sun, only six police brutality payouts have exceeded $200,000 since 2011, and all of those came after lengthy court battles rather than being agreed to quickly. (RELATED: In Wake Of Riots, Baltimore Demands More Money For Programs)
Making the agreed payout especially unusual is that Maryland actually caps the damages plaintiffs may receive in lawsuits against the police at $400,000. That cap was recently upheld in court, with a Maryland court of appeals throwing out a $11.5 million verdict and lowering it to the $400,000 threshole. The higher amount Gray’s family received is only possible because government officials are allowed to negotiate higher payouts if they wish.
Nevertheless, Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake says the settlement was in the best financial interests of Baltimore.
“This settlement … 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 mayor said in a statement.
Gray, a 25-year-old black man with a substantial criminal history, was arrested by police the morning of April 12 for allegedly possessing an illegal switchblade. While being transported in a police van, he suffered severe spinal cord injuries that led to his death a few days later. (RELATED: Law Professor: Freddie Gray Autopsy Is ‘Very, Very Helpful To The Defense’)
After Gray’s death, Baltimore erupted in a wave of protests, rioting, and violence. The city’s violent crime rate has drastically escalated, with more murders so far this year than in all of 2014. (RELATED: Marilyn Mosby Downplays Link Between Freddie Gray Riots And Murder Spike)
Six police officers have been charged with various crimes for their alleged role in Gray’s death, with van driver Caesar Goodson receiving the toughest charge of second degree murder. Prosecutors argue that police intentionally subjected Gray to a “rough ride” that led him to hit his head and die, while defenders of the officers have argued that Gray was intentionally seeking to injure himself to extract a settlement from the city.
The enormous settlement for Gray’s family isn’t the first big payout stemming from recent high-profile deaths at the hands of police. Earlier this year, the family of Eric Garner, who died after being put in a chokehold by police, settled with the city of New York for $5.9 million. (RELATED: Eric Garner’s Death Will Cost Taxpayers $5.9 Million)
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