Update: Sept. 9, 2015 9:53 a.m. ET: Baltimore's Board of Estimates approved the $6.4 million payout to the family of Freddie Gray.
Baltimore plans to pay $6.4 million to the family of Freddie Gray, the unarmed black man who suffered a fatal spinal cord injury in April while in police custody, the mayor's office announced Tuesday.
The Baltimore City Law Department will submit the settlement proposal to the Board of Estimates during its meeting on Wednesday. One of the board's five voting members includes Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who said Tuesday that the proposed settlement is not a "judgement in the guilt or innocence" of the six officers who are charged in Gray's murder.
In her statement, Rawlings-Blake said "the proposed settlement agreement going before the Board of Estimates should not be interpreted as a judgment on the guilt or innocence of the officers facing trial. This settlement is being proposed solely because it is in the best interest of the city, and avoids costly and protracted litigation that would only make it more difficult for our city to heal and potentially cost taxpayers many millions more in damages."
The proposed settlement, first reported by the Washington Post, would be paid as $2.8 million during the current fiscal year and $3.6 million in the next fiscal year, beginning July 1, 2016.
The city made clear that the proposed settlement "does not resolve any factual disputes" surrounding Gray's death on April 12 and "does not constitute an admission of liability" on the part of the city, the police department, or the officers who interacted with Gray.
"The settlement has nothing whatsoever to do with the criminal proceedings now underway," the press release stated.
The proposed settlement comes less than a week after demonstrations outside the Baltimore Circuit Court during the pretrial hearings for the six officers who have plead not guilty. The judge ruled that the six officers will have individual trials and that State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby will not be forced to withdraw from the case.
According to the Baltimore Sun, the $6.4 million payout is larger than the total of more than 120 other alleged police brutality and misconduct lawsuits against the Baltimore PD since 2011.
Kwame Rose, an activist who was arrested during the protests on Sept. 2, tweeted that the money was "not a full amount of justice."
Justin Sanders, a Baltimore-based activist, told BuzzFeed News that the monetary settlement was an "admission that something was done wrong."
"I don't really think there's going to be a lot of justice that comes out of this case, so I think a monetary settlement is a great thing for the family," Sanders said. "They certainly deserve all of that and more, even though money will never replace the life that was lost. But if they're offering up money then it seems to me that's an admission that something was done wrong, which is pretty obvious given that a kid's back was broken and his vocal chord was crushed."
Sanders didn't think there would be a settlement of this size, but said he's uncomfortable with the idea that the people of Baltimore are footing the bill for the officer's actions. "That feels odd," he said. "Because the people of Baltimore aren't responsible; it's the police that are responsible."
He said the city is already struggling for cash, but has to pay for "a mistake they really didn't make, here."
The Fraternal Order of Police, the union that represents Baltimore's rank-and-file officers, issued a statement criticizing the settlement.
"It is with a tremendous concern and alarm that we react to today's news of the proposed wrongful death settlement between the City of Baltimore and the family of Freddie Grey [sic]," Gene Ryan, the FOP's president, said in the statement. "To suggest that there is any reason to settle prior to the adjudication of the pending criminal case is obscene and without regard to the fiduciary responsibility owed to the taxpaying citizens of the city."
Ryan noted that the Gray family has not filed any civil litigation and called the city's decision "ridiculous." He added that the settlement "threatens to interrupt any progress made toward restoring the relationship between the members of the Baltimore Police Department and the Baltimore City government," and urged the city's spending panel to reject this proposed settlement.
Tasneem Nashrulla is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Tasneem Nashrulla at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Darren Sands is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Darren Sands at email@example.com.
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