What happened to Freddie Gray?

It seems like every week we are now hearing about someone who is mistreated while in police custody. The latest in this long line of atrocities as a young man named Freddie Gray from Baltimore. As with all of these cases, there are more questions than answers. Here’s what we know (Timeline) – for some reason, the police spotted Freddie Gray and/or Freddie Gray spotted the police. He ran. The police gave chase both on foot and on bicycle. Freddie Gray was apprehended and arrested. A knife was found in his front pants pocket. He was placed in a police van. He was not buckled in. He was driven around for about 30 minutes before getting to the police station. It has been reported that he asked for medical attention shortly after his arrest.

Once Freddie Gray received medical attention, he was found to have a spinal cord injury. Mr. Gray was arrested on April 12 and he underwent surgery for his spinal cord on April 14. Mr. Gray died of his injuries on April 19.

Questions – What was Freddie Gray doing that cause the Baltimore police to think that he needed to be apprehended/arrested? Did something happen during the arrest process that caused Freddie Gray’s spinal cord to be severed? Why didn’t Freddie Gray receive medical attention shortly after his arrest? In the video, it appears that Freddie Gray may not have complete function of his legs. This is speculation by me. I think the speculation is justified after having viewed the video. There is some discussion on the Internet that quite possibly Freddie Gray’s injury could have come from not being seatbelted into the van, I doubt this. I think it is far more likely that the diminutive Freddie Gray could have suffered this spinal cord injury during his arrest and the spinal cord injury could have worsened in the back of the van by being bounced around.

Here’s the problem that I have with all this – it’s the lack of humanity. I understand that the police have a difficult job to do. Sometimes it’s hard to try to figure out who are the criminals and who are the good guys. When the police officer put a chokehold on Eric Garner, Eric was allowed to lie on the ground motionless for over five minutes (probably more) before he received any medical attention. Freddie Gray appears to have asked for medical attention, and probably needed it, yet received none for 30-45 minutes. The whole thing is heartbreaking.

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Errington C. Thompson, MD

Dr. Thompson is a surgeon, scholar, full-time sports fan and part-time political activist. He is active in a number of community projects and initiatives. Through medicine, he strives to improve the physical health of all he treats.


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