BALTIMORE — Baltimore officials approved a $6.4 million deal Wednesday to settle all civil claims tied to the death of Freddie Gray.
Gray suffered a fatal spinal injury while he was transported in a Baltimore police van in April.
The settlement does not “represent any judgment” on the guilt or innocence of the six police officers charged in the case, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said. “This settlement represents an opportunity to bring closure to the Gray family, the community and the city.”
Rawlings-Blake is part of a five-person panel called the Board of Estimates that handles the city’s financial affairs and approved the settlement.
Gray’s family negotiated the deal with city attorneys, a source close to the family told CNN.
“All of us realize that money cannot, will not — there’s no possibility — to bring back a loved one,” the mayor said. “I hope that this settlement will bring a level of closure for the family, for the police department and for our city.”
She and others on the panel said that the decision to settle with the family was weighed against the high cost of fighting an anticipated civil suit.
“We can avoid years and years of protracted civil litigation,” Rawlings-Blake said, which would be a “significant expense.”
The officers charged in Gray’s death are not named in the settlement, said City Solicitor George Nilson.
The agreement “spares us all having the scab of April of this year picked over and over and over for five and six years to come,” he said.
Prosecutor Marilyn Mosby has said Gray’s injury in April occurred because he was handcuffed and shackled — but not buckled in — in the police van. Six officers will stand trial on charges ranging from assault to murder. All six have pleaded not guilty.
Gray family attorney Billy Murphy said settling potential civil claims without litigation was “an extraordinary result.” Litigation, he said, puts family members “through hell.”
If a civil case went to court, he added, “it could easily have taken three years to resolve, and no grieving family wants to go through that,” he said. “And our city would not want to go through that.”
Police disapprove of settlement
But the head of Baltimore’s police union, which represents the six accused officers, said before the announcement that a settlement would be premature.
“To suggest that there is any reason to settle prior to the adjudication of the pending criminal cases is obscene and without regard to the fiduciary responsibility owed to (taxpayers),” said Gene Ryan, president of the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police.
“There has been no civil litigation filed, nor has there been any guilt determined that would require such a ridiculous reaction.”
Ryan had urged the city committee to reject the settlement pact.
“This news threatens to interrupt any progress made toward restoring the relationship between the members of the Baltimore Police Department and the Baltimore city government,” he said.
In comments to reporters later Wednesday morning, the mayor reacted to Ryan’s comments.
“Gene’s statements continue to baffle me, because what this settlement does is remove any (civil) liability from the six officers,” she said.
The settlement, she said, ensures that however each officer’s criminal trial plays out, they cannot be sued in civil court.
Gray’s death sparked outrage that led to days of massive protests, including some that turned violent. Buildings went up in flames, and local businesses were devastated by vandalism and looting — despite the Gray family’s pleas for peace.
The mayor and Murphy said they welcome the city police department using body cameras. Murphy said a body camera program could be implemented as early as this month.