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Apr 29, 2017

Running from cops

Co-produced with PRX Logo

In cities across America, African American men are on the run. In April 2015, 25-year-old Freddie Gray made eye contact with a police officer on the streets of Baltimore. He turned and ran, but he was chased and arrested for carrying a knife. Gray was loaded into a police van, where he sustained injuries that later killed him.

On this episode of Reveal, we team up with WYPR to explore the consequences for black men who flee from the police through two stories, both set in Baltimore.

Reporter Mary Wiltenburg opens with the story of Greg Butler, a young man who took part in protests in Baltimore after Gray’s death. He ran from the cops after cutting a hole in a fire hose with a pocketknife – a symbolic act, he thought. But since that moment, he’s dealt with the consequences, including federal charges filed against him in which he faced up to 25 years in prison.

We also hear from WYPR reporter Mary Rose Madden, who unpacks the case of another man who was killed while running from Baltimore police seven years before Freddie Gray. It raises questions about how courts handle claims of civil rights violations. But unlike Gray’s death, this one got no attention and barely a mention in local media at the time.

DIG DEEPER

  • More: The man behind the gas mask: Greg Butler’s story
  • Read: Does running from police warrant suspicion?
  • Explore: WYPR’s “On The Watch,” a special series about Baltimore’s police and its communities

Credits

Support for Reveal is provided by The Reva and David Logan Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Mary and Steven Swig.

  • True Game (Reveal show theme), "Camerado-Lightning" from n/a (Cut-Off Man Records)
  • Drag Your Feet, "Pale Sketcher" from Seventh Heaven EP (Ghostly International)

Transcript

Reveal transcripts are produced by a third-party transcription service and may contain errors. Please be aware that the official record for Reveal's radio stories is the audio.

 

  Section 1 of 5          [00:00:00 - 00:10:04]
(NOTE: speaker names may be different in each section)

 

Speaker 1: Hey everybody, before we dive in to our show, I would like to tell you about another show that I adore. It is called, Criminal by Phoebe Judge. So the staff at Reveal gave me a script to talk about Criminal but I am throwing it away. Do you hear that? Gone. Because I do not need it. I love Criminal. They tell these true crime stories that are surprising, funny and sometimes they make you sad. One of my favorite stories was about this woman who died and her husband was blamed for her death. But later on it turned out that an owl might have been responsible for her death. Yeah, an owl. As in, a bird. Like came in and got her hair, it was crazy. Anyway, you have to listen to this podcast, it is so good. So go to their website ThisIsCriminal.com or subscribe to them where ever you get your podcasts from. I am telling you, you will not be sorry.

 

Okay, now on to a podcast that is hosted by Al [Let 00:00:49]

 

Speaker 2: From the center for investigative reporting in PRX. This is Reveal. I'm Al [Let 00:01:01]. Two years ago the streets of Baltimore erupted.

 

Speaker 3: Signal 13. Signal 13. We have patrol [inaudible 00:01:09] under assault. Get down and help us.

 

[00:01:00]

Speaker 4:

 

We need shields down here. We're getting creamed.

 

Speaker 6: [inaudible 00:01:13] throwing the rocks at [inaudible 00:01:15]

 

Speaker 7: It was like a war, they [inaudible 00:01:17].

 

Speaker 3: [inaudible 00:01:19]

 

Speaker 7: Just because I'm walking down the street they want to pull me over, so the first rock I picked up I threw it. I ain't even gonna lie.

 

[00:01:30]

Speaker 2:

 

The violence started after the death of Freddie Gray, the 25 year old man who made eye contact with a police officer and took off running. A group of cops pursued him, arrested him for carrying a knife and loaded him into a police van. There, he sustained spinal injuries that killed him. Afterwards, unrest broke out in parts of the city. It's root causes were decades in the making, but lots of people also asked, "Why did Freddie Gray run in the first place?"

 

In this hour, a collaboration with WYPR in Baltimore, we look at two more cases of running from cops that reveal some truths about policing and the courts. We'll start on that night, two years ago, at the intersection of Pennsylvania and North Avenues in West Baltimore which became the epicenter of protest and looting.

 

[00:02:00]

Speaker 8:

 

You seen like a whole army of people just at every store, taking everything.

 

Speaker 9: Hey, everything.

 

Speaker 10: And everybody's not getting shoven out, they're just coming out with all the pills they could come out with, and the TV off the wall [inaudible 00:02:29].

 

Speaker 11: I'm gonna [inaudible 00:02:32] with you, I want one the police to spit, blow a kiss, do something so I can do something. Cause if I do something, [inaudible 00:02:43] pop him off. All that hands up we don't shoot, let's pray, get the- You think they pray before they shoot us?

 

[00:02:30]

Speaker 2:

 

The evening after Freddie Gray's funeral, at this corner, known as Penn North, police at first, largely hung back as people threw bottles, sacked stores, and burned empty police cars. Then, the fire trucks started arriving.

 

Speaker 12: Then we see the CVS catch on fire, [inaudible 00:03:06] we're responding to that call, then they're throwing a two by four at us, you know what I mean? Usually the people of the city love us because we're taking care of their mothers and their grandmothers, but that day, we were nobody's friend I tell you, I mean it was crazy.

 

Speaker 2: Police threw tear gas, protestors linked arms and formed a line, and an uneasy calm fell over the intersection. In the haze, a line of police advanced on protestors beating their night sticks against their riot shields. Reporter Mary [Wiltonburg 00:03:32] lives a mile from there, and we constructed what happened next.

 

[00:03:30]

Mary :

 

At Penn North that evening, there was this iconic image, an eerie photo that made headlines worldwide. In the middle of a smoky intersection, a young man on a bike wearing a gas mask facing off against a line of riot cops. All kinds of people who were out at the intersection that day protesting or documenting or just watching noticed the guy on the bike raising one fist in the air.

 

[00:04:00]

Speaker 14:

 

When I think of this area, when I think of Penn and North when I think of the riots, I think of him with the gas mask riding around on the bike.

 

Speaker 15: You know, who has a gas mask just laying around, handy. That's what made him look so cool.

 

Speaker 16: Yeah, that's what I'm saying like, he, it was so like-

 

Speaker 17: And he was looking like a damn king in the middle with his hands up, and he was like, "Damn, I wish I was him." It was just great to see no fear.

 

Mary : That same young man, wearing a red and gray hoodie, had also appeared a few minutes before in the background of a live CNN report while a reporter was talking to a community activist.

 

[00:04:30]

CNN Reporter:

 

How far is this gonna go?

 

Activist: As far as they take us. As far as they take us.

 

CNN Reporter: What does that mean? What just-

 

Activist: It means what's behind me right now, exactly. What's behind me, see? See?

 

Mary : Here, the reporter spun around to see water spraying up into the air behind him.

 

CNN Reporter: If you just saw that, they just while we were talking there, just cut the hose with a knife trying to, and then ran, trying to thwart the efforts of the authorities to actually turn out this fire.

 

[00:05:00]

Mary :

 

The guy in the red and gray hoodie had poked the hose twice with a pocket knife.

 

Speaker 20: 4901 Police, be aware. They're cutting the hose. They're cutting the hose to the hydrant right at North Avenue Penn.

 

Mary : Then the young man headed down the street on his bike. Police were watching, but couldn't spare the man power to follow him. The guy on the bike? That was Greg Butler. I met him shortly afterward. He was 21, confident, big smile. Over the past two years, I've gone with him to a dozen court appearances and we've talked a lot about what he did and why. Here's how he remembers the scene when he arrived that day.

 

[00:05:30]

Greg:

 

You had the Muslim brothers creating a line between the police. You had young kids on bikes, you had women crying, you had young guys cussing out police and throwing bottles, and when you sit back and just look it's just like, "Wow." You know? This is my city letting the world know that we understand what's going on with us and we ain't standing for it.

 

[00:06:00]

Mary :

 

Greg is from Baltimore. He grew up in a rough part of town with his two sisters, sometimes his dad who was in and out of prison, and rarely his mom who was in and out of prison and addicted to heroin.

 

Greg: I remember being four, five years old, and I'm sleeping on the floor, and I haven't seen my mom in days and I don't know where my dad is. And me and my sister are feeding my little sister.

 

[00:06:30]

Mary :

 

The kids relied on each other, sometimes went hungry. But Greg was bright, focused, stayed out of trouble. He became a basketball star.

 

Greg: Literally slept with the ball like a pillow, you know?

 

Mary : Captain of the team at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, or Poly, the most selective public high school in the city, he won a full ride scholarship to college. Then, Greg's dad lost his job. Greg took on more hours at work. His grades slipped and he lost his scholarship. Shortly before the unrest, he landed back in his old neighborhood, no longer a sports star or a college kid, feeling like a failure.

 

[00:07:00]

Greg:

 

At some point you feel defeated, you feel beaten like I can't get over a hump. I am the first person in my family to go to college, but I don't have anybody in my family who can relate and understand that, "Now I need you more than ever."

 

Mary : The night before the unrest, violence hit close to home for Greg. His good friend's dad was killed. Greg spent the evening with friends at a bar talking about people they'd lost. When he got home in the wee hours, he sat up Googling, wondering if he might have a role to play in his city. Not as a basketball star, but as some kind of activist.

 

[00:07:30]

Greg:

 

I researched the number of people killed in my city and I find out that I was born in the year that had the most murders in Baltimore, '93.

 

Mary : 353 murders in one year, still the deadliest on record.

 

[00:08:00]

Greg:

 

So, when you find that, the familiarity between yourself and the situation was almost Methodist.

 

Mary : The next day, when he heard what was happening at Penn North, Greg felt like he had to be there. A friend gave him a ride most of the way and loaned him a gas mask. When he dropped Greg near the smokey intersection, Greg says he spotted an abandoned bike and hopped on. After riding around a while, he saw this fire hose that had just been hooked up to a hydrant. He felt in his hoodie for the pocked knife he always carried, and he ran up and stabbed it once, then a second time. A year and a half later, he tried to tell me why he'd done it.

 

Greg: The best way that I can explain it is like, fuck it. When you're tired of everything, it's whatever, I'm doing whatever I want to do out here. There's nobody that can touch me, you know? Y'all catch me tomorrow, [inaudible 00:08:50] by the car like y'all been doing, but today I'm gonna do whatever I want. Hindsight being 20/20 I probably wouldn't do it again, but in the moment, it made all the sense in the world.

 

[00:09:00]

Mary :

 

That evening in 2015 as water rained down, strangers hugged and high-fived Greg and he did a little happy dance that was caught on camera. Then he hung around the intersection for hours having intense conversations with strangers about how to fix Baltimore. He'd taken a risk and it appeared he'd gotten away with it. Nobody had gotten hurt. Deputy Fire Chief Carl Zimmerman was in charge of the fire ground at Penn and North that day. Afterward he talked to me about what Greg had done.

 

[00:09:30]

Carl:

 

Why would you put a hole in the hose? He had no idea what the results of his actions could be. When you take away that water supply, all you get is fire.

 

Mary : Zimmerman said, not everybody was out on the streets.

 

Carl: The good citizens in Baltimore went inside,

 

Mary : He pointed to his firefighters.

 

Carl: And then these guys went out and cleaned up what was left.

 

[00:10:00]

Mary :

 

On his way home that night, craving a smoke, Greg spotted a looted 7-11 with its glass ...

 

  Section 1 of 5          [00:00:00 - 00:10:04]
  Section 2 of 5          [00:10:00 - 00:20:04]
(NOTE: speaker names may be different in each section)

 

Mary Wiltenburg: -night, craving a smoke, Greg spotted a looted Seven Eleven with its glass front door smashed out. Climbing inside, he went behind the counter and picked up a pack of cigarettes. Suddenly, [inaudible 00:10:10] police, who had been casing the store, ran in. They ordered Greg to the floor, searched him, cuffed him, and took him outside to wait for the transport van. But, when it pulled up, Greg made a split-second call.

 

Greg: I took off. And, the guy that had me, he was no where close to catching me. The police officer that did catch me, he used the bike that I had. If he didn't have that bike, I don't think they would have caught me.

 

[00:10:30]

Mary Wiltenburg:

 

I asked him why he ran.

 

Greg: There's two answers to that, right? My political answer is that the landscape of the day was just so hectic. I didn't know if the police had me what they would really do. But, also, from the street point of view they caught me too easy. They caught me way too easy. You got to work for this.

 

Mary Wiltenburg: Greg knew, once they booked him, that was it. But, if he ran, he had one last shot at freedom.

 

[00:11:00]

Greg:

 

You know what I mean? If you ain't, just relax and get ready for your peanut butter sandwich.

 

Mary Wiltenburg: Greg spent over a month in jail. He was eventually charged by the state of Maryland for running from cops and by the federal government for cutting the fire hose. He faced up to 25 years for that.

 

The morning of his state trial the court was a zoo.

 

Male: We're live at City Hall ...

 

Male: We're waiting to get into court where at 9:30 this morning-

 

[00:11:30]

Male:

 

Well, eventually the defense will call the defended William Porter to the stand-

 

Mary Wiltenburg: William Porter, the first of six officers to be tried for Freddie Gray's death, was on trial three floors down from Greg. The line to enter the building stretched down the block. The cafeteria had been converted into a media center, and protestors gathered across the street.

 

Protestor: We won't [inaudible 00:11:51] shut it down! Greg Butler does not deserve to go to jail for five years for poking a water hose. Greg Butler! We are here!

 

[00:12:00]

Protestor:

 

The cops are getting off scot-free. The two guys, who beat up Freddie Gray, they could get convicted and not go to jail for as long as he would go for a freaking water hose. Get the hell out of here.

 

Protestor: No justice!

 

Protestor: No peace!

 

Protestor: No justice!

 

Protestor: No peace!

 

Mary Wiltenburg: For a surreal few days in December 2015, Greg was shuttled back and forth between Baltimore City Detention Center and state and federal courthouses. While his lawyer in state court painted Greg as a novice wrong-doer, federal prosecutor, Philip Seldon, portrayed Greg as a scheming criminal.

 

[00:12:30]

Philip Seldon:

 

- because Mr. Butler provided an alias name, provided an alias date of birth, an alias address. So, that, coupled with the fact that he actually fled from law enforcement gives the idea that he actually had a consciousness of guilt associated with his conduct.

 

Mary Wiltenburg: One of Greg's federal public defenders, Lucius T. Outlaw, countered. He said it was important to consider Greg's actions in context.

 

[00:13:00]

Lucius Outlaw:

 

This was a day where there was protests, rioting, and looting because a young, black man was put in handcuffs and put into the back of a van, and then found dead. For me and him, seeing a police officer is a natural instinct, even me, today, law degree, college. Even, today, my natural instinct is to turn and go the other way, because you don't know what happens.

 

[00:13:30]

Al Letson:

 

Mary Wiltenburg brought us Greg's story. Later this hour, we'll hear how it ends. The Justice Department put out a report on their investigation into the Baltimore Police Department, suggesting that young, black me may have good reason to run for their lives, when approached Baltimore cops. When we come back, a story of another man, who ran and lost his life. You're listening to Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX.

 

[00:14:00]

Amy Walters:

 

Hey, there. Amy Walters here. Every week at Reveal, produces and reporters like myself get together to listen to podcasts over lunch. We call it Listening Club. We're an investigative reporting show, so we love great story telling and, also, uncover something. So, we put together a playlist of some of the episodes we've been paying special attention to, including a few of our own. Check it out! You can be part of our club. Go to radiopublic.com/revealclub.

 

[00:14:30]

Al Letson:

 

From the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX this is Reveal. I'm Al Letson. After the protest following Freddie Gray's death two years ago, the Justice Department investigated Baltimore's police department. One of the main problems they found was the sheer number of times police chased African Americans in poor neighborhoods. Almost 20 years ago, the Supreme Court said that merely running from the police in a high crime neighborhood is suspicious behavior, and police have the right to pursue them. Reporter Mary Rose Madden covers the police for WYPR in Baltimore. She stumbled on a case about another man, who like Freddie Gray, ran from the police, but unlike Gray his death got almost no attention when it happened.

 

[00:15:30] The story begins in an alley in West Baltimore.

 

Mary R. Madden: It was the middle of the afternoon in August of 2007. Jay Cook was getting into his car to go get a money order to pay his rent. He could've walked. The grocery store is just a short walk away, but he was skittish. A week earlier, Jay was robbed at gun point, right here, behind his apartment building. And so when he saw two people in the alley watching him, he took off.

 

Speaker 10: [inaudible 00:16:06] black male, white T-shirt.

 

[00:16:00]

Mary R. Madden:

 

Black male, white T-shirt. That's the description the police called in. Later they'd report that Jay was holding his arm tightly against his body, which to them signaled he was concealing a gun. Did Jay know they were cops? Accounts differ about whether or not they were in plain clothes or uniform, but it might not have mattered, even if he knew they were cops. It's not uncommon for black men in Baltimore to take off running, when the police start for them, and Jay'd had some brushes with the law in the past.

 

Speaker 11: [inaudible 00:16:40] you said Franklin and Fulton?

 

[00:16:30]

Mary R. Madden:

 

Jay was running through streets and alleys. Finally, he reached this overpass bordered by this chain link fence.

 

Speaker 10: [inaudible 00:16:52] he's jumping down onto the underpass on the 40.

 

Mary R. Madden: Route 40 runs through West Baltimore. Jay squeezed through a narrow opening here and clung to the fence 70 feet above the highway.

 

[00:17:00] Back at the apartment, Jay's fiance, Linda Hammond, who everyone calls Precious, started wondering what was taking Jay so long. She went outside to look for him.

 

Linda Hammond: Well, I see one of Jay's friends, and he's crying. And, he's running through the back alley, he's crying, he's just saying, "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" And, I just kept asking him, "What's wrong?" And he wouldn't tell me what was wrong.

 

Speaker 10: There's something [inaudible 00:17:41]

 

[00:17:30]

Mary R. Madden:

 

Precious found the spare key, jumped in the car, and followed police sirens and helicopters to the bridge.

 

Speaker 11: He just jumped under the overpass.

 

Linda Hammond: And I looked down and I see a shoe. I see a sheet. And he was covered up. I see his hand outside of the sheet. And the police officer asked me do I know who this person is? And they took the sheet off of him.

 

[00:18:00]

Mary R. Madden:

 

Jay had fallen from the fence he was clinging to and was hit by a car.

 

Linda Hammond: Only thing I was told on that day was he fit the description of a drug dealer that robbed somebody.

 

[00:18:30]

Mary R. Madden:

 

So, how did Jay end up dead? And what happened in the minutes before he fell into the highway? The radio dispatches that day tell only part of the story. I went to see Jay's father.

 

John Cook III: My name is John Gideon Cook, III. My son's name was John Gideon Cook, IV. We always called him Jay.

 

[00:19:00]

Mary R. Madden:

 

Mr. Cook and I sat together at the dining room table. He flipped through the manila envelopes he'd carefully kept for ten years.

 

John Cook III: We wrote letters to the Department of Justice, to our Congressmen, to the Governor, asking everybody for some kind of help on what took place here.

 

Mary R. Madden: Mr. Cook and his wife even filed requests under the Freedom of Information Act to get the answers they wanted. They were desperate to know more. I asked Mr. Cook to tell me what he remembered about the day Jay died.

 

[00:19:30]

John Cook III:

 

As I went up Fulton Avenue, I saw some police activity. I had no idea it was about my son, who had just passed away. And when I got to the house, Precious informed me, and shortly thereafter my wife came up-

 

  Section 2 of 5          [00:10:00 - 00:20:04]
  Section 3 of 5          [00:20:00 - 00:30:04]
(NOTE: speaker names may be different in each section)

 

Mr. Cook: ... Informed me and shortly thereafter my wife came, and we had to tell her. It hurt so much. I mean, so, so, so much. We didn't know why. We didn't know what happened. We had no idea, but all we knew is that our son was no longer here.

 

Speaker 2: Mr. Cook said he went to the police station for answers.

 

[00:20:30]

Mr. Cook:

 

Couldn't even get an incident report because they kept on stalling me with the, "Well, we're still working on it. We haven't completed it yet."

 

Speaker 2: The cops did tell Mr. Cook that they found a gun on Jay. "That's impossible," his dad thought. No way was his son packing a gun. Years went by, and the Cook family wasn't any closer to finding out what happened to Jay.

 

Mr. Cook: That's why we dug in, and initially, we weren't looking to sue the city. We just wanted answers, but because we couldn't get answers, we then felt as if we needed to get some legal counsel.

 

[00:21:00]

Speaker 2:

 

The Cooks hired a lawyer who'd been recommended by a relative.

 

Speaker 3: Hi.

 

Mary: Hi. How are you?

 

Speaker 3: Good. I'm Mary Rose.

 

Mary: How you doing? Nice to meet you.

 

Speaker 3: Nice to meet you.

 

Speaker 2: Olu Albiona works out of a row house in Philadelphia. His first floor office is crammed with secondhand furniture. He sits down at a large oak desk and starts to describe the case that he says blew his mind eight years ago.

 

[00:21:30]

Albiona:

 

When I think back to what happened to Mr. Cook, sometimes it gets me upset.

 

Speaker 2: Albiona told the Cooks to consider a civil lawsuit, but he told them they didn't have much time.

 

Albiona: Let me make it clear. This incident happened back in 2007, but it was sometime in 2009 that my clients first contacted me about it.

 

[00:22:00]

Speaker 2:

 

The years the Cook family had spent trying to get answers on their own had put them dangerously close to the three year mark when the statute of limitations would run out. Albiona had to act quickly, but he didn't have much to go on. First, he sent out a private investigator. He found two witnesses who said they saw what happened that day at the fence. The Baltimore Police had finally given the Cook family the incident report from August 2007. It said, "Officer Dwayne Green was in the area when he noticed an individual who he suspected was in possession of a hand gun. A light foot pursuit in suit." With just the two witnesses and the police report, Albiona filed a suit. It claimed that Jays constitutional rights were violated starting when the police first spotted Jay in the alley and chased him.

 

[00:23:00]

Albiona:

 

I mean, this said that the way he appeared, it looked like he might have had a weapon on him. They didn't say they saw a weapon. That stop in of itself was racially motivated and a violation of his constitutional rights.

 

Speaker 2: Albiona filed a civil rights suit against the police commissioner, Officers Dwayne Green and Raymond Howard, who are named in the incident report and the city of Baltimore. The pretrial process got under way with discovery. Both sides are supposed to turn over evidence to each other by a mutually determined date, but the police department didn't turn over much at all. Albiona filed a subpoena to get them to produce everything they had related to the Cook case. He also asked for the department's policy and procedures on excessive force, stop and frisk, and how officers determine reasonable suspicion. Albiona says this information was crucial to his case.

 

[00:24:00]

Albiona:

 

If you're looking at the police department where they have a custom and practice of just stopping and frisking black people, more than 80% of that stop and frisk does not, in fact, result in an arrest. That is discriminatory stop and frisk. It is racial profile, which is part of my client's case. I'm asking them to produce information that might support that claim.

 

[00:24:30]

Speaker 2:

 

The police said that documents about the departments policies and procedures were privileged, but they said they would provide the files relating to Jay's death. The judge quickly rule. He said the police, "shouldn't be put to the expense of assembling the files." He went further and said the police didn't have to turn over anything, even the materials related to Jay Cook. The pretrial process wasn't going well for Albiona. He had to begin the depositions with little evidence, and only one of his witnesses would testify against the police.

 

Speaker 6: Here we can save number one in the deposition of Shamika Summers. [crosstalk 00:25:00].

 

[00:25:00]

Speaker 2:

 

Shamika Summers lived across the street from the route 40 overpass and said that on the afternoon of August 14, 2007, she was sitting outside on the steps to her house.

 

Albiona: Tell the jury what did you observe. What did you see?

 

Shamika: I observed him running.

 

Speaker 2: Shamika had a bad tooth ache. She speaks slowly, and in the deposition video, you can see her holding her cheek. A warning, there's some offensive language here.

 

[00:25:30]

Shamika:

 

I saw cops running behind him. I saw him walk up on the bridge part.

 

Albiona: Then what happened when you saw that?

 

Shamika: He was trying to hide in the bushes on the fence from the police, but they saw him. He was shaking the fence.

 

Albiona: Who was shaking the fence?

 

Shamika: It was a white cop shaking the fence. He was shaking the fence and calling him names.

 

Albiona: Calling who names?

 

Shamika: Jay. Saying he was a dumb nigger.

 

[00:26:00]

Albiona:

 

Who was saying Jay was a dumb nigger?

 

Shamika: The cop [inaudible 00:26:05] knock on the head, the red hat on. The white cop.

 

Speaker 2: The lawyer for the Baltimore Police Department also questioned Shamika.

 

Speaker 8: Given that you were an eye witness to this man falling, did you think it was important to go over and tell the police what you saw?

 

Shamika: At the time, no, sir.

 

Speaker 8: Why not?

 

Shamika: I didn't want to talk to the police, sir.

 

[00:26:30]

Speaker 8:

 

Why not?

 

Speaker 2: In the video deposition, you see Shamika look at the lawyer for the police department in disbelief. Her eyes wide, as if she's saying, "Are you serious?"

 

Shamika: I didn't want to talk to them. They could've did me the same way they did him.

 

Speaker 8: You were afraid to talk to the police because they would throw you over the wall to the highway below?

 

Shamika: I don't know what they may do to me, sir.

 

[00:27:00]

Speaker 2:

 

Back to the cop with the red hat that Shamika mentioned. Albiona showed her photos the police had taken.

 

Albiona: Now, I want you to go through the pictures one at a time. Tell us if you recognize any of the people there that was around the fence that day.

 

Shamika: I recognize that cop.

 

Albiona: Who is that?

 

Shamika: That's the one who was chasing him.

 

Albiona: That is the one chasing Jay?

 

Shamika: Yeah. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

 

Speaker 2: The officer Shamika Summers circled was Jared Freed. Albiona hadn't named him in the lawsuit because his name wasn't in the police report. The cops who were named in the report were Officer Raymond Howard and Officer Dwayne Green. What did they say in their depositions? Albiona questioned Green first. In the report, he's the one who chased Jay to the fence.

 

[00:27:30]

Albiona:

 

Did you ever participate in any way, shape, or form regarding an incident at the route 40 overpass on August 14, 2007?

 

Green: Yes, sir. Upon hearing the foot pursuit, I drove on the highway in the event that he was going to proceed to run on the highway.

 

[00:28:00]

Speaker 2:

 

Green said he didn't chase Jay. He wasn't even at the fence. That same day, Officer Raymond Howard gave a deposition. He's the officer who wrote and signed the incident report.

 

Albiona: In preparing your report, did you talk to any police officers to get information as to how the accident happened?

 

Howard: Yes.

 

Albiona: Which officers did you talk to?

 

Speaker 2: Howard told Albiona that he talked to a detective who'd arrived after Jay's death.

 

[00:28:30]

Albiona:

 

Who else did you talk to?

 

Howard: I didn't talk to anybody else. The information that was given to me was that Officer Green was the person that was chasing the gentleman.

 

Albiona: Okay.

 

Speaker 2: Officer Howard wrote the police report using only secondhand information. One more officer gave a deposition. Office Haywood Bradley testified that he heard the dispatcher on his radio and arrived to see Jay hanging from the ledge of the highway overpass. He said he immediately started trying to rescue Jay.

 

[00:29:00]

Bradley:

 

I cut my shirt, my pants getting over the pants. I finally got over the fence, and that's when I saw him. His face was looking up at me. I was telling him, "Hold on, man. I'm coming. Just hold on." I reached up to grab him and fell.

 

Albiona: Like to take a minute?

 

Bradley: No. I'm okay.

 

Speaker 2: In the video deposition, you can see Bradley wipe away tears.

 

[00:29:30]

Bradley:

 

I watched him fall. Car ran over him. I started screaming for help.

 

Speaker 2: Bradley, who's African American, described what another officer said to him after Jay fell. Again, a warning here about offensive language.

 

Bradley: He said to me, "You need to calm down. I don't know why you worried. It's just one less drug dealer we got to worry about. One less piece of shit."

 

Albiona: Officer said, "This is one less nigger we have to deal with?"

 

[00:30:00]

Bradley:

 

He did say that, too.

 

  Section 3 of 5          [00:20:00 - 00:30:04]
  Section 4 of 5          [00:30:00 - 00:40:04]
(NOTE: speaker names may be different in each section)

 

Olu Abiona: Nigger we have to deal with-

 

Speaker 2: He did say that too.

 

Mary Rose M. : When Bradley described what happened at the fence he named other police officers who weren't in the incident report. Two of them were named Angela Choi and Jared Fried. Remember Fried was the officer Shamika Summers identified as chasing Jay to the fence that day.

 

Olu Abiona: Did you see Officer Dwayne Green on the scene that day?

 

Speaker 2: No.

 

Mary Rose M. : At this point it's clear Abiona had named the wrong cops in the lawsuit because the wrong cops were named in the incident report.

 

[00:30:30]

Olu Abiona:

 

The reports that they gave to my client was totally false.

 

Mary Rose M. : There were other police documents and they confirmed what Officer Bradley had said. Officer's Fried and Choi were at the fence the day Jay died. The police department had that evidence in their custody the whole time. And it should've been handed over during discovery. Abiona tried to add Fried and Choi to the lawsuit.

 

Olu Abiona: I filed a motion to the Judge letting him know this [inaudible 00:31:02] newly discovered evidence that we did not have, which changes everything, because they have been leading us to think it was Officer Green that was initially involved with my client. There was no other way to know.

 

[00:31:00]

Mary Rose M. :

 

But the Judge denied Abiona's motion, he sighted procedural rules. Abiona had missed the deadline to add new parties to the suit. Abiona had had what he called ample time to learn the real identities of the officers involved before filing. The Judge said the plaintiffs had, "No one but themselves to blame."

 

[00:31:30]

Olu Abiona:

 

The police department intentionally lied, and lied for years. Maybe if you had told the truth from the beginning, there would not be an issue of a deadline being missed.

 

Mary Rose M. : Abiona did make mistakes. The most glaring was that he sued a black officer for chasing Jay, even though the witnesses said the cop was white.

 

In February 2011, the Judge dismissed the lawsuit. He wrote in his opinion that Abiona hadn't shown due diligence. That the police hadn't acted in a way that shocked the conscious. To the cops, Jay was a suspicious character, just another black guy running in Baltimore. To his parents and Precious, he was their kid, their love, scared for his life.

 

[00:32:00]

Precious:

 

He didn't have a gun. He was going to the store to get a money order for the rent.

 

Mary Rose M. : Did Jay have a gun? None of the witnesses, even the police saw him with one. What they did see was Officer Choi removing a gun from his body. And there are more questions, were the officers chasing Jay in uniform or in plain clothes?

 

[00:32:30] I tried to interview Officers Choi and Fried, the police department wouldn't make them available and they never responded to private requests. I wanted to ask them, did Officer Fried shake the fence Jay was clinging to?

 

[00:33:00] When I found this case in the local law library, I searched for any news stories I could find about it. The Baltimore Sun ran a short brief back in 2007.

 

Gus Sentementes: The man who was killed Tuesday after he fell off a bridge over US 40 in West Baltimore while fleeing from police officers, was identified yesterday as a 25 year old city man. My byline at the time when I worked at the Baltimore Sun was Gus G. Sentementes.

 

Mary Rose M. : Gus use to work for the Sun on the crime beat. He remembered the story right away when I asked him about it, because it was so chilling. "But," He told me, "The circumstances around Jay's death weren't unusual."

 

[00:33:30]

Gus Sentementes:

 

Back in 2007 the police, you know were really requiring these officers to do 'stop and frisks'. You would have to submit at the end of your shift how many stop and frisks you did. But a lot of this was tied to officer incentives. I don't think a lot of people understand how much of a numbers game policing became in Baltimore.

 

[00:34:00]

Mary Rose M. :

 

Gus says the police union president told him, "That police officers called their work, VCR detail, for Violation of Civil Rights."

 

About ten years later the justice department came to Baltimore in the wake of Freddie Gray's death.

 

Speaker 6: Good morning, today the Department of Justice announces the outcome of our investigation and issues a 163 page report detailing our findings ...

 

[00:34:30]

Mary Rose M. :

 

Their report made national news when it came out in August of 2016.

 

Speaker 6: ... We conclude that there is reasonable cause to believe that BPD engages in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the constitution and the Federal Anti-discrimination Law ...

 

Mary Rose M. : The report confirmed what Abiona was trying to prove in his lawsuit for the Cook family, that the police used racial profiling, that they used force excessively. The report even confirmed that some officers use the "N" word when on the job, with no repercussions.

 

[00:35:00] The DOJ report also said, "The Baltimore Police Department needed a clear cut policy on foot pursuits." I asked Police Commissioner Kevin Davis to respond, he took command of the force in 2015.

 

"So I wanted to ask you if there's a foot pursuit policy to guide officers conduct in pursuits?"

 

P.C. Kevin D.: There's training, but there's not a specific policy. Police officers chase bad guys, that's what we do. So when we see a person who's engaged in suspicious conduct and if that person runs, police officers should engage in foot pursuits. That's what we do. We're crime fighters.

 

[00:35:30]

Mary Rose M. :

 

The DOJ also identified the Police Department's serious lack of oversight. In Jay's case, someone filed an incident report that was inaccurate at best, falsified at worst. I asked Commissioner Davis about this.

 

P.C. Kevin D.: Sometimes if the reports don't match, it's a training issue, sometimes it's a disciplinary issue, and then from time to time it's an issue with truthfulness and honesty.

 

[00:36:00]

Mary Rose M. :

 

Davis said he has, "No problem holding his police officers accountable." He said he, "Fired 23 officers in 2016."

 

P.C. Kevin D.: They didn't deserve to, to represent this agency in our community.

 

Mary Rose M. : So what happened to the officers in Jay Cook's case? Officer Howard who got the facts wrong on the report of Jay's death left the force a month after the incident to become a police officer in Delaware. Hayword Bradley, the black cop who was there when Jay died, filed a discrimination suit of his own against the department several years later. The suit was dismissed and Bradley is no longer a policemen. Angela Choi is still on the Baltimore Police Force. So is Jared Fried, the cop a witnessed said, "Shook the fence Jay was hanging onto."

 

[00:37:00]

Al Letson:

 

That was reporter Mary Rose Madden of WYPR in Baltimore.

 

Jay Cook died after running from the cops. But, Greg Butler's run in with the police had a different ending in court.

 

Greg Butler: I'm a man of values and principles and anybody who doesn't bring me harm doesn't deserve harm from my hands.

 

Al Letson: The surprising end to Greg's story, coming up next on Reveal.

 

[00:37:30]

Julia B Chan:

 

Hey listeners, Julia B. Chan here, Reveals digital editor. In the segment you just heard, Al mentioned a Supreme Court case from 2000. That decided that merely running from the police in a high crime neighborhood could be considered suspicious behavior. The officer then has the right to chase, stop and frisk. In other words, police are expected to follow their hunches.

 

[00:38:00] Well, fast forward to 2016 just this past September, another court case decided that quote, "Evasive conduct is insufficient to support reasonable suspicion." So, where exactly does the law stand now on this issue of running from the cops? Well, WYPR's Mary Rose Madden who you just heard from, delves deeper into these two court cases in a story on our website. Check it out at Revealnews.org/running. That's R-U-N-N-I-N-G.

 

Al Letson: From the center for investigative reporting and PRX this is Reveal, I'm Al Letson. This hour we're following the stories of two different black men in Baltimore who ran from cops. We're gonna return now to Greg Butler, he's the young man who became the poster child for the unrest in the city two years ago. He was 21 at the time and cut a hole in a fire hose live on CNN. When we left Greg, he was on trial for running away from the police that night. He's also been charged by the federal government for cutting the fire hose. Reporter Mary W[inaudible 00:39:06] picks up Greg's story. He's on trial at the same time as the first officer charged in Freddie Gray's death and the city is bracing for protests.

 

[00:39:00]

Mary W.:

 

Outside Baltimore's Federal Courthouse the city was tense, but inside ...

 

Speaker 13: "Your Honor the government calls the case of the United States versus Gregory Lee Butler Jr also known as Greg-"

 

Mary W.: Greg Butler faced two federal counts. Obstruction of firefighters during a civil disorder. That carried a five year maximum sentence. And aiding and abetting arson, which carried up to 20 years. As the hearing got underway the prosecutor explained that Greg was also on trial in State Court. The Judge interrupted.

 

Judge: [inaudible 00:39:46] hold on, he's ongoing right as we're speaking?

 

Speaker 15: You're Honor, they are on a lunch break. And during that lunch break Mr. Butler was brought over, seen by the US Marshals with the understanding from Judge [inaudible 00:39:57] that he would be brought back over to Circuit Court at 2:30 this afternoon.

 

  Section 4 of 5          [00:30:00 - 00:40:04]
  Section 5 of 5          [00:40:00 - 00:53:28]
(NOTE: speaker names may be different in each section)

 

Judge: To circuit court and 2:30 this afternoon.

 

Mary Wiltenburg: The judge was incredulous.

 

Judge: I don't ... As they say in Australia, I'm not feeling it. I think it's ripe with problems.

 

Mary Wiltenburg: The judge had Greg fitted with an ankle monitor, told him to come back when his other trial was over, and released him with just minutes to make it the seven blocks back to circuit court. I started running with him through the midday traffic at downtown Baltimore.

 

[00:40:30]

Greg Butler:

 

I'm ready just to take a step back and look at it, like, how we moving, you know? Who sprints from courtroom to courtroom?

 

Mary Wiltenburg: As we ran, Greg talked about the serious federal charges he now faced.

 

Greg Butler: I was trying to do math in my head, because again, I haven't seen any charge papers until I got to the courtroom. So, I'd been hearing rumors of five, this, then a third, but I knew it was two charges so I kind of ... Let's kind of sprint across real [quick 00:40:51].

 

Mary Wiltenburg: They could add up to 25 years.

 

Greg Butler: That's more time than I've been alive, you know, so ...

 

Mary Wiltenburg: Greg said it bothered him, that the Baltimore police officer being tried at the same time, for the death of Freddie Gray, was enjoying more freedom than he was.

 

[00:41:00]

Greg Butler:

 

All I know is, he's walking around free, and I got an ankle bracelet.

 

Mary Wiltenburg: The next morning the jury in Greg's state case found him guilty of two charges. The first was attempted theft of under a $100. That's when he tried to take a pack of cigarettes from a looted 7-Eleven. The second was escape in the second degree, for running from the cops who'd arrested him. Citing Greg's youth, and the fact that this was his first offense, the judge gave him probation. The charges could be expunged from his record after three years of good behavior. Greg and I set off again.

 

Greg Butler: So, now, we leaving straight from the circuit court and going right to the Federal Court for my detention hearing, and we're gonna see if I can get some arrangement set up [whereas 00:41:53] though I can stay on the street and stay with my girlfriend and the baby, and keep our fight going.

 

[00:41:30]

Mary Wiltenburg:

 

In six months, Greg was going to be a father. For the first time, it hit home that he might not be there to meet is child.

 

[00:42:00] How you feeling now?

 

Greg Butler: Definitely walking lower to the ground than I was yesterday.

 

Mary Wiltenburg: We got back to the federal courthouse. Greg sat before the judge. His sisters in the gallery. The prosecutor, Philip Selden, argued that Greg should be locked up until his case came to trial. He brought up the CNN broadcast, where you can see Greg cutting the hose.

 

Crowd: Did you see that? [crosstalk 00:42:29]

 

CNN rerporter: Well, if you just saw that, they just, while we were talking there, just cut the hose with a knife.

 

Philip Selden: It was [rall 00:42:35]. He had a plan in place. You will see him on those cameras actually engaging the camera and when the camera does not engage him, he then takes the acts of cutting those hose lines. Following that conduct, Mr Butler is seen actually dancing in the street.

 

[00:42:30]

Mary Wiltenburg:

 

The Liz Oyer, Greg's public defender, rose and questioned why Greg was even being charged federally.

 

Liz Oyer: Your Honor, I think the way the government is handling this case is really just reinforcing the dynamic between law enforcement and residents of this city that got us here in the first place.

 

[00:43:00]

Mary Wiltenburg:

 

It was important, she said to take into account what had happened in the city in April 2015, and why it had happened.

 

Liz Oyer: That was a historically, heated, emotional and volatile moment in the history of this city, and what Mr Butler is accused of doing here, needs to be understood against that backdrop.

 

Mary Wiltenburg: The prosecutor, though, said it didn't matter what the context was. Greg couldn't be trusted. He'd lied to police, and tried to run from them. Then the prosecuter reeled off a list of pettier complaints, like a missed appearance in traffic court. Greg's lawyer said bringing that up suggested the government was out of touch with the city.

 

[00:43:30]

Liz Oyer:

 

Honestly, you could lock up half of the young men in Baltimore City based on the same theories that the government is asserting here.

 

Mary Wiltenburg: That was day two of Greg's federal case.

 

The next 331 days were just as fractious as the lawyers squared off in motions and hearings. Meantime, all six cases against the police charged in Freddie Gray's death ended without convictions, and without more unrest in the city. And Greg and his girlfriend, Chastity, became parents to a son, Kai [Lee 00:44:23] Butler.

 

[00:44:00]

Greg Butler:

 

I cried when he came out. It was too much for me. I couldn't handle it.

 

Chastity: I was so surprised when he cried. I was so surprised. It made me cry.

 

[00:44:30]

Greg Butler:

 

You're just overwhelmed, just trying to figure out what is my legacy going to be for him, what am I going to leave him? What am I going to help him grow into? What kind of man do I want him to be? You know.

 

Chastity: Yeah.

 

Greg Butler: And then, you lead to the question, "Well, what kind of man are you?"

 

Mary Wiltenburg: What kind of man is Greg. It's the question his federal case boiled down to. What kind of guy pokes holes in a fire hose? A criminal bent on hurting people, or a frustrated kid who ceased an opportunity to strike back. The whole two years I've known Greg, he's been wrestling with the question, "What kind of man do I want to be?" His background pointed one way.

 

[00:45:00]

Greg Butler:

 

If you watch your parents as drug addicts, and their parents were drug addicts, you know, it's no reason for me to cower and hide, because I'm a die on these streets regardless. You know, I'm ready to go at any day.

 

[00:45:30]

Mary Wiltenburg:

 

But these days his choices point in another direction.

 

Greg Butler: For my son to be in a place where I want him to be, to excel academically, to be a good person in our community, I have to lay that groundwork. So, that's my life's work at this point.

 

Mary Wiltenburg: Eventually, Greg's lawyers persuaded the judge to throw out the more serious charge against him. He pled guilty to the lesser one, obstructing firefighters. In November 2016, days before the presidential election, Greg appeared in federal court one last time to be sentenced. The prosecution wanted three years of jail time and restitution to the tune of almost three million dollars.

 

[00:46:00]

Greg Butler:

 

You know, I felt like the US attorney, he was giving it all he had. He was giving it all he had.

 

Mary Wiltenburg: Recording wasn't allowed at this sentencing hearing. Things looked bad for Greg. Then, something strange happened. Greg's lawyer asked the judge if she could call a witness who was supposed to be testifying for the prosection. Baltimore Deputy Fire Chief, Karl Zimmerman. A year earlier, Zimmerman had spoken to me about Greg's cutting the fire hose, and the danger that put his firefighters in.

 

[00:46:30]

Karl Zimmerman:

 

To turn around and put one of their lives in jeopardy because you feel like you need to be liberated doesn't really hold a lot of water with us. We're not real hip to that.

 

Mary Wiltenburg: There on the stand, Zimmerman took a different tone. He testified that Greg had showed up when the drugstore had nearly burned down. So, stabbing the hose hadn't hurt anyone. Then Greg's attorney asked him, did he have an opinion about what Greg's punishment should be? And Zimmerman shocked the room by saying, "Yes, community service, with the fire department, supervised by me."

 

[00:47:00] When it was Greg's turn to speak, he stood, wearing black framed glasses, a new navy suit and a bow tie, the spitting image of one of his idols, Malcolm X. A few nights earlier, he had sounded like Malcolm, when we talked about why he thought people in Baltimore had taken to the streets.

 

[00:47:30]

Greg Butler:

 

Black people have been living this way since the first day we touched soil. We live like somebody's watching us, from slavery, to Jim Crow, to now. So when you have black people feeling like "Yeah, you watching me but you can't stop me" it's no telling what's going to come out there. Cause my ancestors are speaking through me at this point.

 

Mary Wiltenburg: Later on, Greg would tell me what he was thinking that moment in court, when he stood to address the judge.

 

Greg Butler: If you never said anything important in your life, this is, what the hell, you gotta, you know what I mean? You know, I kinda had two [inaudible 00:48:09] in the back of my head. Thinking like, all right, the pressure's on and this is the point where people fold. You know what I mean? This is the point where buckle and cry.

 

[00:48:00]

Mary Wiltenburg:

 

But Greg didn't fold. He started to apologize, but the judge interrupted him. "Why did you do it?" What Greg said next was a gentler version of something he had said to me a few nights earlier. He'd been wrong to lump firefighters and police together in his mind that day.

 

[00:48:30]

Greg Butler:

 

I threw bottles at the police. I ain't sorry for that, cause I understand who the enemy was.

 

Mary Wiltenburg: But firefighters, that was different.

 

Greg Butler: Firefighters aren’t letting black people burn in buildings. So, from that aspect, I can be sorry. I can, you know, want to make amends, because at the end of the day, I’m a man of values and principles and anybody who doesn’t bring me harm doesn’t deserve harm from my hands.

 

[00:49:00]

Mary Wiltenburg:

 

When Greg sat down, the judge delivered his sentence. Community service. No further jail time, and a million dollars of restitution for the burned CVS drugstore to be paid a $100 a month. He wasn't condoning Greg's conduct, the judge said, but the whole city was a victim of what had happened. People in the community, the firefighters, and the police. He said to Greg "I don't want to make you another victim."

 

I spoke to Greg's lawyer, Liz Oyer, later, in her office. She talked about how she felt when the deputy fire chief agreed to testify on Greg's behalf. "It never works like this," she said.

 

[00:49:30]

Liz Oyer:

 

It's also the first time in my career in this office, I've been in the office for a little over four years, that I have seen anybody just kind of look at the situation and do what they thought was right regardless of how it might come back on them negatively. It reaffirmed my faith in humanity a little bit because, you know, we don't see that a lot in my job. Really not ever prior to this.

 

[00:50:00]

Mary Wiltenburg:

 

But this time was different. Behind the scenes, Greg's situation had come to the attention of the City's emergency manager, who got to know him and like him. He lobbied colleagues in the fire department until they got behind the idea that sometimes a person needs a second chance. When Greg thinks back now to April 2015, he comes back to the two famous images of him that day. The one of him in a gas mask, stabbing a fire hose, and that other one. He's on bike, in a haze of smoke, facing a line of cops in riot gear, raising his fist in the air. That picture says something about the kind of man wants to be.

 

[00:50:30]

Greg Butler:

 

From that moment on the bike, it was a power that I hadn't really had. At that very second, for that two seconds that I had my fist up, I was the leader of that community. In that moment, I saw police in a position that I've never seen them in, on the defensive. It was just, freedom took over. Freedom took over, and I wanted to let everybody around me know that they was free too.

 

[00:51:00]

Al Letson:

 

Greg's story came to us from Mary Wiltenburg. Recently, Greg met with the firefighters whose hose he cut and apologized. Today, he's doing his community service in the Baltimore Fire Marshal's office.

 

[00:51:30] A couple of final notes to our show. In March, the FBI indicted seven Baltimore police officers on federal racketeering charges. The plain clothes cops were charged with robbing citizens after chasing them on the street, during traffic stops, and sometimes, while searching their homes. Right now, more than 20 police departments around the country, including Baltimore's, are operating under legal settlements with the justice department. Newly appointed attorney general, Jeff Sessions, says this is demoralizing for law enforcement. He wants the federal government to stop policing the police, but after years of police misconduct, will black citizens stick around to see how things play out, or will they just keep on running.

 

[00:52:00] Mary Rose Madden and Mary Wiltenburg reported and produced the show, and Deborah George was the senior editor. Today's show was a co-production with WYPR in Baltimore. Our sound design team is Jim Briggs and Claire Mullen. They had help this week from Catherine Raymondo and Mary Lee Williams. Our head of studio is Christa Scharfenberg. Amy Powell is our editor in chief. Susanne Reber is our executive editor and our executive producer is Kevin Sullivan. Our theme music is by Camerado, Lightening. Support for Reveal is provided by the Reva and David Logan Foundation, the Ford foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation. Reveal is a co-production at the Center of Investigative Reporting and PRX. I'm Al Ledson, and remember, there is always more to the story.

 

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