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Baltimore, business owners settle over Freddie Gray unrest

BALTIMORE — The city of Baltimore has reached a $3.5 million settlement with a group of business owners whose property was damaged in the 2015 unrest that followed the death of Freddie Gray, a Black man injured in police custody.

In all, nearly 70 people sued the city in 2017, claiming officials failed to prevent the violence that followed the arrest and death of Gray in April 2015, despite warnings that there would be violence. The settlement was agreed to on Feb. 17, The Baltimore Sun reported.

Gray died from injuries he suffered in police custody. Six officers were charged in Gray’s death, but three were acquitted and prosecutors dropped charges against the remaining three officers.

More than 380 businesses, many of them in a hard-hit area in West Baltimore, were damaged or destroyed. Property losses were estimated at nearly $13 million.

“This lawsuit was not only about compensation, but about giving the plaintiffs a vehicle for their voices to be heard,” said Peter Hwang, attorney for the plaintiffs. “Through this lawsuit and the settlement their voices were heard loud and clear.”

The settlement does not include attorneys’ fees for the business owners. The Board of Estimates must approve the settlement by April 18 for it to become official.

“The Solicitor’s Office believes that this resolution is in the best interests of Baltimore residents,” said James Bentley, a spokesman for Mayor Brandon Scott.

Plaintiffs took particular issue with the response from Baltimore police, saying they seemingly did nothing to prevent property destruction during the unrest.

City officials said they prioritized preventing the loss of life over the loss of property and considered the police response a success.