BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Baltimore City Board of Estimates on Wednesday approved a $3.5 million settlement in a lawsuit brought by business owners whose businesses were damaged during the unrest that ensued in the wake of the 2015 death of Freddie Gray.
The city and Chae Bros. reached the multi-million dollar settlement in February, but it needed to be approved by the spending board to be distributed. The plaintiffs included some residents whose homes were damaged in the unrest.READ MORE: How To Avoid Heat-Related Illness This Blistering Weekend
The lawsuit was brought in 2017 by dozens of businesses in response to millions in damages inflicted on city businesses amid the rioting and unrest that unfolded in April and May of 2015 after the death of Gray, who died in police custody.
Business owners sued the city on the grounds that it violated the Maryland Riot Act, alleging that city officials, including then-Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, failed to prevent the looting and rioting that erupted in the aftermath of Gray’s death.
The $3,562,005.05 settlement is about half of the cost of the total property damage alleged by the plaintiffs.
Council President Nick Mosby asked a Department of Law representative if there is a stipulation for the businesses to put their settlement money back into the property, saying many of the establishments already had structural issues before the damage and were “eyesores.”READ MORE: Person Shot At Owings Mills Pizza Shop
Representative Sara Gross, a lawyer with the city, said the settlement did not include any restrictions on what the plaintiffs would spend the money on because about a quarter of the plaintiffs were private individuals whose homes were broken into who had personal property damaged or stolen. In the last five years, many of the individuals have moved, she said.
“From a logistical standpoint, it would be very hard to implement that kind of requirement,” she said.
WJZ in March spoke with Peter Hwang, the attorney who represented the businesses.
“This lawsuit was not only about compensation but also about giving the plaintiffs a vehicle for their voices to be heard,” Hwang said. “And through this lawsuit and through this development I think their voices were heard loud and clear. The settlement now allows the plaintiffs to finally put everything behind them and move on with our lives.”
Gray was taken into custody about 8:40 a.m. on April 12, 2015, and he was placed unrestrained in the back of a police van. Less than an hour later, he was taken to a hospital where he fell into a coma. He died of spinal injuries a week later.MORE NEWS: Local Dance Group Invites You To Groove At Jewish Community Center Of Greater Baltimore Block Party
Besides unrest, the 25-year-old’s death led to the arrests of six Baltimore police officers. A mistrial was declared in the case of Officer William Porter and Officers Edward Nero and Caesar Goodson were acquitted in bench trials. Charges were later dropped for the trio and the rest of the officers charged.