Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s forthcoming political memoir has a hefty chunk that describes his recollection of the 2015 death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore and the days of demonstrations and unrest that followed.
But some of Hogan’s accounts in the five chapters he released aren’t backed up by evidence or don’t correlate with what’s publicly known about the events.
In response Wednesday to written questions, David Weinman of Hogan’s political organization, An America United, wrote that: “The book is based on the governor’s observations and discussions with law enforcement officials as he worked to keep the people of Baltimore safe through a difficult chapter in the city’s history. We encourage everyone to read the entire book to understand the full context of these important events.”
Hogan’s co-author did not respond to an email asking about this section of the book.
Here are key questions about what Hogan wrote about his “baptism of fire.”
Arrest of a “rabble-rouser”
In one chapter, Hogan describes the televised arrest of a protester on a night when a citywide curfew was in effect.
The man was “an especially significant demonstrator” who “seemed to be the chief violent instigator,” Hogan writes. A member of the Maryland National Guard snatched the man and yanked him inside a Humvee.
Hogan didn’t name the person, but protester Joseph Kent was taken into custody that way — scooped into a Humvee live on national television. He was on the street, pacing in front of a line of officers. The next instant, he had vanished and the vehicle was driving away.
But Hogan’s account doesn’t line up with reports about Kent’s behavior and the charge he faced.
Hogan writes that the TV coverage showed a man “pacing and yelling and throwing things, acting several degrees wilder and more frantic than anyone else on the street.” Hogan writes the “rabble-rouser” threw “a makeshift firebomb” toward police officers before he was taken into custody.
However, Kent was only charged with a curfew violation. Kent’s former lawyer, Stephen Beatty, said Kent was “walking around, telling people to go home, his hands in the air. He’s saying the word: ‘Disperse.‘”
“Joseph was never accused of anything violent,” Beatty said.
Is the governor writing about Kent? Beatty is confident he is, based on the book’s description of what was shown on TV.
CNN’s Chris Cuomo was on the scene and reported live that police “rightly or wrongly” perceived Kent to be part of a group throwing things at officers. Kent twice approached the police line, Cuomo said. He described officers as shooting Kent the first time with pepper balls. The second time, Kent said, “Disperse” in the direction of the CNN camera.
The Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery tweeted at the time that he “watched Joseph Kent spend hours trying to clear young people from street & keep them from rioting.”
Who Freddie Gray was
Hogan writes that no matter what Gray’s background was, it didn’t warrant mistreatment by police. But the governor emphasized that Gray was a known criminal.
“There is no point in confusing Freddie Gray with a singer in the church choir, the way some in the media did,” Hogan writes.
“He was a Crips gang-connected, street-level drug dealer with a long criminal rap sheet, well known to the Baltimore City police. Officers would say later that they kept the handcuffs on because Gray had been so unruly while they were attempting to place him in the van, the cuffs couldn’t be safely removed.”
What’s the background to Hogan’s assertion of Gray’s gang ties? He offers no evidence in the chapter, and nothing’s been made public of any connection between Gray and the Crips.
On the morning Gray was arrested, it doesn’t appear that police were looking for him. When Gray spotted the officers, police said he started running away and officers pursued him. Courts have held that officers can chase people who run from them in neighborhoods police have designated as “high-crime.”
After officers caught him, they found he had a pocketknife that police said was illegal because it was a switchblade. The knife — and whether carrying it was a crime or not — factored into the trials of officers charged with killing Gray.
As for whether Gray was “unruly” that morning, police officers wrote in court documents that Gray was arrested “without force or incident.” Bystander video shows him yelling and his feet dragging on the ground as officers haul him into a police van.
Cause of Gray’s death
As Hogan introduces Gray’s death in his book, he writes that the cause of the man’s injuries and death is “in dispute.” But he offers just two possibilities: either the injuries were the result of “a tragic, unforeseeable accident” or officers purposely gave Gray a “rough ride.”
Could it have been something else? Hogan leaves out the possibility of anything in between, such as negligence on the part of officers in handling Gray’s transport.
Following an autopsy, the state medical examiner’s office classified Gray’s death as a homicide, meaning he died due to the actions of others. The medical examiner’s office said officers failed to follow safety procedures “through acts of omission.” Gray was loaded into the van on his belly. His wrists were cuffed and his ankles shackled. He was not seat belted in, according to the autopsy report.
The charges against the six officers appeared to be related to their actions — and inactions — that contributed to Gray’s death. None was charged with first-degree murder, which requires premeditation.
Van driver Caesar Goodson Jr. was acquitted of the most serious charge, second-degree “depraved heart” murder, which would have required prosecutors to show he had reckless disregard for Gray’s life.
Goodson and three other officers were charged with variations of manslaughter charges and all six faced reckless endangerment charges. All officers were either acquitted or had their charges dropped.
Hogan writes about the looting of drugstores across the city on the day of Gray’s funeral.
“Rival gangs had some kind of joint-venture agreement, dividing up the yet-to-be-looted drugstores among themselves,” Hogan writes.
Hogan doesn’t attribute that information, so what’s known about who took the drugs and what arrests were made relating to the looting pharmacies?
A year later, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency estimated that 315,000 doses of drugs worth $500,000 were stolen that night. Forty percent of the drugs were Schedule II opioids such as methadone, oxycodone and fentanyl.
Maryland Policy & Politics
There have been few arrests related to the looted pharmacies. One man was sentenced to four years in prison for setting fire to a CVS at the corner of Pennsylvania and North avenues, but looters had broken into the drugstore an hour before he torched it.
One expert on gangs told The Baltimore Sun at the time that it would be unusual for gangs to work together to commit crimes. Asked about a Baltimore Police Department claim that gangs united during the unrest and sought to target police officers, George W. Knox of the National Gang Crime Research Institute said: “It’s not realistic and it’s not logical and it’s not consistent.”
On the night of the worst unrest, Hogan recounts going from the Maryland Emergency Management Agency in Reisterstown to the University of Maryland’s R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center on the west side of downtown to visit injured police officers and firefighters.
He then got in his state SUV to head to his office at the William Donald Schaefer Tower at 6 St. Paul St., a quick trip of less than a mile due east.
On the way, Hogan writes that he agreed to do a live appearance on CNN at Baltimore City Hall, “which happened to be on our way.”
What map app was being used? While City Hall is not far from the Schaefer Tower, it’s about a third of a mile farther east of Hogan’s office. The SUV would have had to pass Schaefer Tower to get there.