As controversy swirls over what happened to Freddie Gray April 19 while in police custody, the mayor and Board of Estimates is set to pay $80,000 to a 37-year-old man who said he was beaten by police in East Baltimore in 2011.
The settlement comes just one week after the spending board approved a $175,000 cash award to the family of a 38-year-old who was shot and killed by police at a Northwest gas station in July 2012.
The two cases – together with Freddie Gray, who died yesterday after his spine was nearly broken according to the family’s lawyer under so-far unexplained circumstances – involve African-American men.
A parade of out-of-court settlements, paid for by city taxpayers, have come before the Board of Estimates in recent years.
The cases involve alleged beatings, shootings, home invasions, Taserings and other inappropriate uses of force by Baltimore police officers.
The settlements typically contain a non-disclosure clause that requires the awardees and their attorneys not to speak publicly about the case to the media.
The settlements are routinely approved, without discussion, at Wednesday’s Board of Estimates meetings by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, City Comptroller Joan Pratt and City Solicitor George Nilson. City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young often casts the only “no” vote.
According to this coming Wednesday’s agenda, the latest case involves Timothy J. Ashe, of Randallstown, who parked his car in a tow-away zone on East Lombard Street at 12:30 a.m. on January 16, 2011.
When Officer Raphael Rassi approached the vehicle, Ashe reportedly came out of a business – and “at some point a verbal confrontation ensued.”
Rassi called for backup officers, who ordered Ashe to sit on the curb. He refused and allegedly lunged at Officer Chris Drummond, who “stepped back and delivered two strikes to his face with his fist.”
Ashe was placed in handcuffs and transported to Maryland General Hospital and then to Central Booking. Charges were later dropped against Ashe, who “incurred medical and dental expenses of over $55,000 as a result of his injuries,” according to the board’s agenda.
Ashe filed a lawsuit against Officers Rassi and Drummond, Sergeant Stephen Wilson, and the mayor and City Council, alleging false arrest, assault and battery, false imprisonment and violation of the Maryland Declaration of Rights.
The case was scheduled for a jury trial next month when the matter was settled by Ashe’s attorney, Lawrence S. Greenberg, and the city Law Department.
Struggle at a Gas Station
Last week’s $175,00 settlement went to Alice Monroe, personal representative of the estate of the late Michael Omar Wudtee.
Wudtee was shot and killed on July 1, 2012 by Officer Paul Heffernan after he allegedly struggled with the officer and squeezed his testicles.
Heffernan said he was forced to shoot the 38-year-old Wudtee because his service weapon was exposed during the altercation.
An eyewitness account differed in “some material respects” to the officer’s statement, according to the city law department.
Anger over Freddie Gray
Regarding Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old was picked up last week in West Baltimore by police and was to be charged with carrying a switchblade.
However, after being in police custody for a yet-unconfirmed period of time, Gray was taken by ambulance from the Western Police District to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma center. There, after remaining in a week-long coma before he died Sunday morning.
According to the police charging document, Gray “suffered a medical emergency” during his transport to Western District in a paddy transport “and was immediately transported to Shock Trauma via medic.”
According to William “Billy” Murphy, Jr., an attorney for the family, 80% of Gray’s spine was severed while he was in police custody.
Gray’s death sparked protests on Saturday at the Western Police District and today at City Hall, where about 50 demonstrators carried signs reading “Black Lives Matter” and “Stop Police Terror.”
At a news conference, Mayor Rawlings-Blake and Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts promised full accountability and transparency.
The mayor said she wanted “real answers” and would make sure to hold “the right people accountable.”
State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby has also weighed in, asking anyone with information on Gray’s arrest to contact her office.
“I can assure the public that my office has dedicated all its existing resources to independently investigate this matter to determine whether criminal charges will be brought,” she said today.
STATEMENT ISSUED BY ATTORNEY WILLIAM “BILLY” MURPHY JR. REGARDING THE ALLEGED CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE ARREST OF FREDDIE GRAY:
On last Sunday morning [April 12] at about 8a.m., the police chased Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old healthy man, without any evidence he had committed a crime. His take-down and arrest without probable cause occurred under a police video camera, which taped everything, including the police dragging and throwing Freddy into a police vehicle while he screamed in pain.
While in police custody,his spine was 80% severed at his neck. He lapsed into a coma, died, was resuscitated, stayed in a coma and on Monday [April 13] underwent extensive surgery at Shock Trauma to save his life. He clung to life for seven days and died today at approximately 7 a.m. [Sunday, April 19].
We believe the police are keeping the circumstances of Freddie’s death secret until they develop a version of events that will absolve them of all responsibility. However, his family and the citizens of Baltimore deserve to know the real truth, and we will not stop until we get justice for Freddie.
OTHER BREW REPORTING ON FREDDIE GRAY:
• City to pay $80,000 to victim of police beating 4/20/15
• Freddie Gray death: heartache for family, hash spotlight for Baltimore 4/21/15
• Demanding jail for officers involved in Freddie Gray’s arrest, marchers share their own police horror stories 4/22/15
• City prepares for worst, but protesters dial down the anger at City Hall march 4/23/15
• City workers sent home early today ahead of Freddie Gray demonstration 4/23/15
• Policing with impunity: How judges let dubious police tactics flourish 4/25/15
• Pent-up anger over police explodes on city streets after day of peaceful protests 4/26/15
• Most arrested at protest are city residents but mayor and police blame “outside agitators” 4/26/15