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Baltimore’s spending panel has approved paying an $8 million settlement to a police trainee who suffered brain damage and other serious injuries when he was accidentally shot in the head during an exercise in 2013. The closed Rosewood Center in Baltimore County, shown in this file photo, was the site of the shooting.
Baltimore’s spending panel has approved paying an $8 million settlement to a police trainee who suffered brain damage and other serious injuries when he was accidentally shot in the head during an exercise in 2013. The closed Rosewood Center in Baltimore County, shown in this file photo, was the site of the shooting. (Karl Merton Ferron)

Baltimore’s spending panel approved Wednesday paying an $8 million settlement to a police trainee who suffered brain damage and other serious injuries when he was accidentally shot in the head during an exercise in 2013.

The city’s legal department recommended the settlement to avoid potentially costly litigation in a federal lawsuit filed by Raymond Gray, the University of Maryland police recruit shot by William Kern, a Baltimore Police Department training officer, during a Feb. 12, 2013, training exercise at the Rosewood Center, a Owings Mills campus for people with intellectual disabilities that closed in 2010.

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The settlement represented one of the largest in city history — more than the $6.4 million settlement awarded to the family of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, whose death from injuries suffered in police custody in 2015 sparked widespread protests and unrest.

It also represented a shift for the city, which under previous administrations argued any payout to Raymond Gray should be capped at $200,000.

“We’re very happy that this administration took a progressive outlook on this matter,” said A. Dwight Pettit, Gray’s attorney. “I want to give Mayor Young his kudos for having an open mind on this thing, unlike the past administrations.”

The Board of Estimates settlement concluded more than six years of litigation, which took the case up to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals before being remanded to a lower court for a jury trial, after judges rejected the city’s claim that the nature of the incident meant that a $200,000 cap on damages applied.

The fear that a jury might award a massive sum was one factor in the city’s decision to settle.

City Solicitor Andre Davis said he was recused from the matter because he was a federal judge on the court that decided an earlier appeal in the case, although he was not involved in that decision.

“My client is satisfied and I think the city got a fair negotiated amount in consideration of what could have been."


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Democratic Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young directed the city Law Department to negotiate the case and authorized officials to offer more than the initial amount, said Deputy City Solicitor Dana P. Moore. The mayor was “involved and aware of all of our steps in that negotiation,” Moore said.

“We did so at the urging of Mayor Young,” she said. “We had a duty, frankly, to do right by this very good public servant. ... Fortunately, he survived his injuries, but the injuries left him incapable of taking care of himself.”

The deputy solicitor acknowledged that the city’s stance on the settlement changed after the federal court ruling, but, she said, “it also changed with this mayor.”

“Mayor Young is the mayor who has reached out to the law department and said, ‘You’ve got to fix this,’" Moore said. "The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ... really opened our eyes to the need to do something different, and it was Mayor Young who gave us the mandate.”

Democratic Comptroller Joan Pratt, who is a member of the Board of Estimates, called the settlement “significant and entirely appropriate.”

Democratic City Council President Brandon Scott, who chairs the board, said Gray’s shooting was an “unfortunate and preventable tragedy.”

“No amount of money could ever change what happened to Mr. Gray, especially for an incident that was avoidable,” Scott said. "My heart goes out to Mr. Gray and his family.”

Pettit said the circumstances surrounding the training incident and the nature of his client’s injuries and subsequent medical needs would have made for a compelling argument in court for a large award.

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Baltimore police were not authorized to use the Rosewood Center for training, and top commanders weren’t aware of the exercise. Kern believed the service weapon he used in the shooting was a simulation gun, and had pointed it at a window in Gray’s direction during a training exercise “demonstrating the danger standing in the potential line of fire" can pose to officers, according to the Board of Estimates’ agenda.

Kern was convicted of reckless endangerment and sentenced to 18 months in jail, with all but about two months suspended. The police department fired him.

Gray, who was 43 at the time, lost an eye and had a bullet lodged in his brain, Pettit said. He needs around-the-clock nursing and medical care for the rest of his life, and Pettit has said his lifetime medical bills will amount to $7 million. Gray has cognitive limitations and must remove an eye prosthesis frequently for cleaning.

“I don’t think they wanted all that before the jury,” Pettit said of city officials. “My client is satisfied and I think the city got a fair negotiated amount in consideration of what could have been."

Gray appeared in court at one point during the recent litigation and remained for nearly two hours, a taxing experience for him, Pettit said. He did not appear before the Board of Estimates.

Pettit said in addition to the risk of a jury trial, he believes that Young reassessed the case and saw no point in fighting Gray’s claims for the damages and medical costs he has incurred.

“My argument has always been, ‘Why would the city be so negative to somebody that for all practical purposes was one of their own?’ It seemed to me that the city could have seen this as an opportunity to do the right thing and be on the right side of the issue for a young man who was doing the right thing and trying to be a cop,” Pettit said. “The mayor and the administration saw the merits of that argument.”

Pettit also represents alleged victims in other pending claims against police officers, including against members of the corrupt Gun Trace Task Force. He said he does not think that the $8 million settlement awarded to Gray will impact future settlements in other cases, because Gray’s experience was so unique.

“Those cases are going to have to fall or stand on their own merits,” Pettit said.

Baltimore Sun reporters Colin Campbell and Wilborn P. Nobles III contributed to this article.

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