$3.5M settlement OK’d for Baltimore businesses damaged in Freddie Gray riots

A group of business owners whose properties were damaged during the 2015 Baltimore riots that followed the police-related death of Freddie Gray will get a $3.5 million settlement the city approved Wednesday.

The city’s Board of Estimates unanimously voted to move forward with the settlement, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Money will be distributed among 68 business owners who sued Baltimore, claiming that local leaders failed to prevent unrest despite warnings that there would likely be violence. City officials claimed that they prioritized preventing the loss of life over the loss of property and considered the police response a success.

The settlement with business owners was first announced several weeks ago, but Wednesday’s vote means it has now been approved. It does not include attorneys’ fees for the business owners.

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

“This resolution is in the best interests of Baltimore residents,” said James Bentley, a spokesman for Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott.

Buildings were set on fire and windows were smashed in the riots that broke out seven years ago following the death of Gray, a 25-year-old Black man who died from a spinal injury he suffered while in custody in a police transport van.

Gray’s death became a focal point in the national debate over police treatment of African Americans.

In all, more than 380 business were destroyed, damaged or looted in the unrest, many of them in West Baltimore. Property losses were estimated to be around $13 million.

The $3.5 million is half of the damages that the plaintiffs were originally seeking in the lawsuit.

Six police officers were charged in the case, but ultimately all of them were either acquitted or had their charges dropped.

Gray’s family reached a $6.4 million settlement with Baltimore for his death.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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