BALTIMORE — The mistrial this week in the case of 25-year-old Freddie Gray certainly wasn’t what many residents of Baltimore were expecting from a trial that some considered to be a “slam dunk,” one ending in a jury finding Officer William Porter guilty.
A jury couldn’t break their deadlock over the four charges — including involuntary manslaughter — against Porter, who had Gray in custody before he died in April. A retrial has been scheduled for June 13.
But while Baltimore authorities prepared for a potential riot, most residents showed a calm sense of resolve. They were shocked, but hopeful: Justice, they told America Tonight, would eventually prevail and start to heal their fractured city — even if it’s not yet clear what that justice might look like.
“The legacy of Freddie Gray is just bringing each other closer. Just building the connection,” said 18-year-old Noah Mayfield, a budding photographer who is friendly with Gray’s siblings. “So many things are in his name now that this thing happened, it’s like there is nothing you can do. He would want peace between us so why not bring him peace?”
The grief around Gray’s deaths still runs deep in Penn North, the neighborhood where Gray was born and also where he had his fatal interaction with police. There are murals painted on the sides of row houses; a memorial with candles and flowers still stands at the now abandoned section of Gilmor Homes, where Gray was loaded into a police van. For writer and activist Tariq Toure, the mistrial is a “here we go again” moment, another notch in the narrative of black America’s uncertainty with justice.
“For the people, it’s simple. We don’t really see all the legal terminology of the case, all the intricacies of it. What we see is that Freddie Gray was alive. He ran. He was accosted by the police, roughed up. No, not even to say roughed up. He had his spine broken by police,” Toure said. “We know that any day you can be Freddie Gray if you’re black in America, just by walking down the street, just by the “broken windows” policy or “stop and frisk.”
For Toure, the trial is about more than just Gray — it’s about long-term justice. Things like investing money and time into human capital all around him in Baltimore.
“There’s been no investment in growing these youth and growing these young men. It’s been either you survive through this maze of institutional racism and drugs and crime and all these things. Or bust. Jail or dead,” he said. “If it’s raining sometimes you don’t know until the thunderclaps — and Freddie Gray was a thunderclap.”
Still, those thunderclaps have sparked some profound changes in his neighborhood, Mayfield says. There’s a stronger sense of community. There are fewer people mugging. “They show love, they get love,” he says — and there’s more respect.
“It’s so amazing how a lot of people can live through one man’s death. A lot,” Mayfield said. “It definitely set the tone for a lot of people in Baltimore City and opened up their eyes.”