Freddie Gray shouldn't have been arrested. Baltimore police accused him of possessing a switchblade during an altercation on April 12. But it turns out the knife wasn't a switchblade and was, therefore, legal in Baltimore. Those facts are now publicly known, but only after the investigation into Gray's death.
But what would have happened if Gray hadn't died of a spinal cord injury he received while under police custody? It's likely Gray's unjust arrest, just like many others across the country, would have gone unnoticed by the public at large — and Gray could have served some jail time, or worse, for a crime he didn't commit.
David Rocah, senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, explained the scenario to Baltimore news station WBAL-TV.
"It is a travesty and a tragedy that the only reason we are looking into the facts of Freddie Gray's arrest is the fact that he's dead," Rocah said. "If he had not died, I think it is almost indisputable that what would have happened is he would have been processed in jail, he probably would have been … set a bail that he couldn't afford, and he would have stayed in jail until he took a plea in order to get out of jail."
What's worse, Rocah suggested that this happens quite frequently. "The mere fact that the officers felt comfortable doing this speaks volumes," he said. "To make up a story in charging documents means you think you can get away with it, and that can only come from experience."
This is the type of scenario that leads black communities to feel unfairly targeted by police and creates deep distrust toward law enforcement. Gray was arrested unlawfully. But if it weren't for his death, he very likely would have had to pay — whether through jail time or more — without any media attention into the circumstances of his arrest. It's hard to imagine coming out of that situation without some resentment toward police and the criminal justice system as a whole.