Freddie “Pepper” Gray was 25 when he died from a spinal injury allegedly sustained while in police custody, prompting huge protests and riots in Baltimore as the city responds to the death of a young black man under unclear circumstances.
Here’s what we know – and don’t know – about Gray.
The 25-year-old man reportedly fled police, who pursued and arrested him, later charging him with unlawful possession of a knife. It’s unclear why he was pursued in the first place, or why he ran. A friend told the Baltimore Sun he feared police brutality.
Gray’s death is one of hundreds caused by police each year.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation says 400 “justified police homicides” occur each year, but many believe that figure underestimates the true number. A crowd-sourced count of deaths in police custody lists more than one thousand police homicides.
“Most of us are not here because we knew Freddie Gray,” Gray family attorney Billy Murphy said at the young man’s funeral. “Most of us are here because we knew a lot of Freddie Grays. Too many.”
Gray had a troubled upbringing.
Gray grew up in an impoverished neighborhood in Baltimore’s west side. His disabled mother struggled with drug addiction and could not read, according to court papers, obtained by The Washington Post, which document a suit against the landlord of the home he grew up in, which was reportedly so riddled with lead paint it poisoned him and his sisters. Gray lived off the settlements, which the Post adds are so common in the area they’re called “lead checks.”
He had a lengthy criminal record.
He had so many run-ins with police that officers could identify him from surveillance video by name, The Washington Post reports. His rap sheet included multiple drug-related charges.
A lot of things went wrong in his short arrest.
Gray wasn’t wearing a seat belt when he was transported to the police station – a violation of police protocol – and he repeatedly requested medical care, which he did not receive until he reached the police station.
Local and federal authorities have vowed an investigation into these errors, which Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said Friday were inexcusable, noting the department’s new rules specify detainees have to be secured.