Was Freddie Gray Based on a Real Person? How Did He Die?

‘We Own This City’ follows the stories of corrupt police officials of Baltimore’s Gun Trace Task Force and how they are ultimately brought to justice. The gritty HBO mini-series details atrocious crimes carried out with impunity by specific police officers in a city that is already at breaking point. Notably, the narrative is set in the aftermath of the death of Freddie Gray — a landmark incident that shook the city and subsequently pushes the administration to scrutinize its police department. Since much of ‘We Own This City’ is inspired by actual events, we wanted to take a closer look at Freddie Gray.

Was Freddie Gray Based on a Real Person?

Yes, the show’s mention of Freddie Gray and his tragic death is based on an actual person of the same name. Freddie Carlos Gray Jr. was a 25-year-old African American and Baltimore resident who passed away on April 19, 2015. The circumstances of his death left the city shocked and led to widespread protests as well as riots that required the intervention of the National Guard.

Image Credit: CNN/YouTube

Freddie was arrested on April 12, 2015, by members of the Baltimore Police Department for the possession of an illegal “switchblade.” He was subsequently put inside a BPD transport van and severely injured on his way to holding. Forty-five minutes after being arrested and put in the vehicle by the Baltimore Police Department, Freddie was found unconscious and was later discovered with severe injuries to his spinal cord.

Notably, the knife that Freddie had in his possession was later verified as being legal and not a switchblade. There were multiple eyewitness statements claiming to have seen excessive force being used on Freddie by the police. The last few minutes of his arrest were filmed by Kevin Moore, who shared the footage with investigators and uploaded it to the internet, where it went viral. On it, Freddie could be seen being held by officers Garrett Miller and Edward Nero in a police hold known as a “leg lace.”

Freddie’s subsequent death and the video shared by citizens led to widespread outrage and protests around the city. The large-scale protest in downtown Baltimore turned violent on April 25, 2019, leading to multiple arrests. Police officers were also injured in the process. When the situation got more precarious, a state of emergency was declared by Governor Larry Hogan, and the Maryland National Guard was deployed until May 3, 2019. Six Baltimore police officers were arrested in connection to Freddie Gray’s death. However, none of them were convicted.

How Did Freddie Gray Die?

As per reports, Freddie sustained injuries during the time he was transported in the police van. Maryland’s state attorney Marilyn Mosby subsequently said that during this time, the young man asked for medical assistance on two separate occasions but was not immediately attended to. Freddie was then admitted to the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center and passed away a week later due to fatal injuries to his spinal cord.

Image Credit: CBC News: The National/YouTube

A subsequent police investigation reported that Freddie’s injuries were inflicted during his time in the van, which included six stops, two prisoner checks on the victim, and another passenger pick-up. According to the autopsy report, the fatal injury resulted from a “high-energy” impact of his head against a hard surface.

The Maryland state examiner classified the death as a homicide, which Marilyn Mosby subsequently echoed. The state attorney, summarizing the findings from the state’s independent investigation into Freddie’s death, said that it was “believed to be the result of a fatal injury that occurred while Mr. Gray was unrestrained by a seatbelt in the custody of the Baltimore Police Department wagon.”

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