Baltimore's police union asked Monday for donations to support the six officers charged in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray, saying the "extremely lengthy" legal process — including six separate trials — threatens to overwhelm the union's "distress fund," which is used to support officers in financial need.
"While the Lodge anticipates the ability to pay the required legal fees, we remain concerned about the Distress Fund that is being used to assist these officers with their living expenses," wrote Gene Ryan, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, in an email to members that was also posted on the organization's website.
The distress fund, which has existed for years, has been tapped to support the officers in the Gray case — four of whom are not being paid pending the adjudication of their cases.
"For the initial days and weeks after the indictments, we were overwhelmed with the generosity of so many people from across the country," Ryan noted in the email. "However, each week that goes by sees those funds being depleted. Without additional support, we are concerned that we will not be able to meet the needs of our members."
Gray, 25, suffered a severe spinal cord injury while in police custody in April and died a week later. His death spurred protests against police brutality, and his funeral was followed by rioting, looting and arson in the city. Gov. Larry Hogan called in the National Guard and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake instituted a nightly citywide curfew for a week to restore order.
On May 1, Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby announced charges against the six officers involved in Gray's arrest.
Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., the driver of the police van in which Gray was injured, is charged with second-degree depraved-heart murder. Sgt. Alicia D. White, Lt. Brian W. Rice and Officer William G. Porter are charged with manslaughter. Officers Edward M. Nero and Garrett E. Miller face lesser charges, including second-degree assault. All six have been charged with misconduct in office.
Goodson, White, Rice and Porter have all been suspended without pay because they face felony charges. Nero and Miller, whose charges are misdemeanors, have been suspended with pay. All six have pleaded not guilty.
Circuit Judge Barry Williams ruled that each of the six officers will be tried separately. Prosecutors have said they intend to try Porter first, and court records show a tentative trial date of Oct. 13.
In his email, Ryan asked FOP members "to look into your hearts and reach into your pockets so that we can continue to build the funds needed to assist our Brothers and Sister."
"Also, if I can be so bold," he wrote, "please ask your friends and family members to consider a donation, as well. We will be grateful for any amounts they can afford."
The Baltimore police force has about 3,000 officers.
The plea comes after outside organizations have attempted to raise funds for the officers in ways that stirred criticism, and which the FOP disavowed.
One included the sale of T-shirts featuring the image of a brick with the phrase "The Battle of Mondawmin," in a reference to the beginning of the April 27 unrest in West Baltimore, where officers were injured as rioters threw bricks and rocks.
Another event was planned by a former police officer who performs in blackface, but it was canceled after it drew sharp criticism from the NAACP, the city police union and an attorney representing one of the officers.