Opinion Columns & Blogs

No way for African Americans to win in current system

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, right, holds a news conference July 27, 2016, near the site where Freddie Gray was arrested after her office dropped the remaining charges against three Baltimore police officers awaiting trial in Gray’s death. At left is Gray’s father, Richard Shipley.
Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, right, holds a news conference July 27, 2016, near the site where Freddie Gray was arrested after her office dropped the remaining charges against three Baltimore police officers awaiting trial in Gray’s death. At left is Gray’s father, Richard Shipley. The Associated Press

Vote, they told us. We did that.

Stop rioting, they told us. We did that, too.

Let the justice system do its job, they told us. We even did that.

Be patient, they told us. Well, we’ve been doing that for more than a century.

And still, all of the charges have been dropped against the officers involved in the Freddie Gray case.

On April 12, 2015, Freddie Gray was walking in his Baltimore neighborhood, but when he saw police officers in the area, he started running. The police gave chase, and tackled him to the ground. They found a knife, blade folded into the handle, clipped to the inside of Gray’s front pocket and arrested him.

But 40 minutes later, when the van arrived at the police station, Gray was unresponsive and unconscious. After being taken to the hospital, doctors found he had a broken neck, a crushed voice box and a severed spine.

So what happened between his arrest at 8:43 a.m. and being seen at the hospital at 9:43 a.m.?

The likely answer seems to be what’s called a Rough Ride. It’s a form of retaliation used against a suspect whom officers deem too loud or argumentative. They simply handcuff and/or shackle the suspect and place him or her in the back of a police van.

Then the driver of the van starts speeding on bumpy roads, making a series of sharp turns, coming to sudden stops – all designed to throw the bound and helpless suspect around in the unpadded metal van.

Cellphone video captured the driver stopping the van and other officers pulling Gray from the vehicle to place flex cuffs on his wrists and leg shackles on his ankles. Then they place him – headfirst and on his stomach – back into the van.

The medical examiner ruled his death a homicide, adding it is “believed to be the result of a fatal injury that occurred when Mr. Gray was unrestrained by a seat belt while in the custody of the Baltimore Police Department wagon.”

There were Baltimore citizens who held protests about Freddie Gray’s death, but that didn’t really get any media coverage or attention. Then there was rioting.

That got national media attention. They got things rolling. Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced six officers were being charged with Gray’s death.

But then one officer’s trial ended in a mistrial. Two other officers were tried and acquitted. The charges were dropped against all the officers last week.

Freddie Gray did not break his own neck, crush his own vocal box and sever his own spine.

But no one was responsible for his death?

Not even a teeny-weeny bit responsible?

Even Mosby, in the news conference announcing the dropping of the charges, was furious. She said there were police officers who were witnesses to the case, but still were appointed to the investigative team. Lead detectives, she said, were not only uncooperative, but actually started a counterinvestigation to disprove the state’s case.

It’s obvious the investigation was rigged; the bigger problem is the whole system seems to be rigged against us. There just is no way for us to win.

So, what would you have us do now?

Never mind, I think it’s time we decide for ourselves.

Karen E. Quinones Miller is a journalist, historian, best-selling author and community activist. She wrote this for the Philadelphia Daily News.

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