Here are the important facts that have been largely ignored in the narrative that has been created and consumed by millions across the world. ("A happy-go-lucky young Black man is arrested for no reason, beaten by police for no reason, had his spine broken by the police, as all his desperate pleas for help went ignored.")
(1) F.G. was an active drug dealer from his teens through age 25 (at death). This we know from his arrest record, with repeated arrests for drug possession and distribution.
(2) His arrest record is lengthy. The Washington Post reports he had "at least 12" arrests; other sources say 18 arrests. They include: drug possession, drug distribution, assault, burglary, trespassing, destruction of property.
(3) He spent a good portion of his nearly nine year adult life in jail and prison for his various crimes.
(4) He was arrested five times in 2015 (=five arrests in just over 100 days).
(5) He attempted to run away from police just before the final arrest, was caught, restrained, and became very angry, shouting abuse at the arresting police.
(6) Still angry, his behavior inside the police van was bizarre: “A prisoner sharing a police transport van with Freddie Gray told investigators that he could hear Gray ‘banging against the walls’ of the vehicle and believed that he ‘was intentionally trying to injure himself." [Wash Post]
(7) The police stopped the vehicle and took measures to restrain him further to prevent the apparent self-harm.
(8) When it was clear he'd fallen into serious medical trouble, the police promptly brought him to a hospital, where he died a week later. (From the way some of the irresponsible and riot-inciting elements of the media report it, you'd think the police had executed Saint Freddie and dumped his body in a ditch outside of town, perhaps following a Ku Klux Klan ceremony -- No, rather, they rushed him to a hospital.)
(9) Freddie Gray filed multiple frivolous lawsuits to try to gain cash payouts. He even had one of these lawsuits pending as of March 2015.
So, what are reasonable people to make of these facts?
First, if you are in an encounter with police, for God's sake just cooperate. This is the basis of civil society. Don't resist violently, run, or shout abuse at police, and problems tend to disappear.
Second, and more specifically to this case, given Freddie's criminal character and history of filing frivolous lawsuits, it's very possible that he saw that (especially) in the recent political climate of media-promoted "racialized police abuse" stories, he could get a big cash payout by filing a wrongful injury lawsuit against police. This explains his bizarre behavior in the van. I'm open to other explanations, but this seems to fit the facts much, much better than the allegation pushed by many that Freddie Gray was "murdered by police because he was Black." (Three of the six officers involved were Black, anyway, we've now learned, further discrediting this slanderous fantasy.)
I say that facts matter. Reality matters. It is reckless to ignore reality. It is reckless to empower people like the socially-destructive Freddie Gray and people like him.
Reckless. If it's really now Open Season on police, especially White police, then the police, not being fools, will be wary of working too hard. One wrong move, they know, will end up getting them crucified before the mob, with the media playing the part of the Pharisees, orchestrating the crucifixion. No, it'd be far better to let certain criminal activity slip by than try to stop it and risk political crucifixion, loss of job, loss of income and health insurance and pension, loss of dignity, and even potential prison time (as for these six officers, who were charged in response to the rioting). I don't think the agitators here really want to live in a world without police.
Some might concede, "Okay, Freddie Gray may have been a bad guy; he may, after all, even have injured himself and partly caused his own death, it's not clear; but look, police brutality really is a growing problem." Is it? What do the people who says this base this allegation on? Is it on a few stories hyped-up in the media for (it seems to me) political purposes? What are the facts?
Someone has found the numbers. Between 1976 and 2013, "justifiable homicides by U.S. law enforcement" have remained steady. There has been no recent rise. Each year, between 300 and 462 people are killed by police in shootouts and that kind of thing. Policing is a serious business. (Meanwhile, between 14,000 and 25,000 regular murders have been committed annually in the same period). One ironic fact in the data is that when controlled by crime rates, Whites are actually a little more likely to die in encounters with police than Blacks (see link).
Do any of the above facts matter?
Meanwhile, this charming war-story from the rioting:
"[A gang leader] described how he and some Bloods [gang] members stood in front of stores that they knew were black-owned business, to protect them from looting and vandalism. [...] Instead, he said, they pointed the rioters toward Chinese- and Arab-owned stores." [New York Times]