Freddie Gray, the Baltimore man who died Sunday after suffering a broken neck while in police custody, reportedly was not buckled into his seatbelt during the 30-minute ride to the police station, despite having his hands cuffed and his legs in irons.
Attorney Michael Davey, a union lawyer representing at least one of the six officers involved in the case, told the Associated Press that Gray was not buckled in, though he argued it was for the officers’ safety.
“It is not always possible or safe for officers to enter the rear of those transport vans that are very small, and this one was very small,” he said.
Just nine days before Gray’s arrest, the Baltimore police department updated their rules to state that all arrestees be strapped in by seat belts or “other authorized restraining devices” for their own safety.
As for those rules, Davey said: “Policy is policy, practice is something else.”
Gray was found unresponsive—with his spine 80 percent severed, according to his family’s attorney—after arriving at Baltimore’s Western District police station. He died one week later.
In 2005, another Baltimore man suffered a broken back while riding unsecured in a Baltimore paddy wagon.
Dondi Johnson died of a fractured spine in 2005 after he was arrested for urinating in public and transported without a seat belt, with his hands cuffed behind his back.
“We argued they gave him what we call a ‘rough ride,’” at high speed with hard cornering, said Attorney Kerry D. Staton. “He was thrown from one seat into the opposite wall, and that’s how he broke his neck.”
Staton obtained a $7.4 million judgment for the family, later reduced to the legal cap of $200,000.
[Image via AP]