By Stephen Janis and Taya Graham, Special to the AFRO
For former Maryland University police cadet Raymond Gray, every day is a struggle.
Roughly half a dozen surgeries and six years of intense therapy have failed to restore both the physical capabilities and mental agility that he lost when he was shot in the head in 2013 by Baltimore city police trainer William Kern. Disabilities that can be best summed up by recounting the routine tasks he cannot complete on his own.
“I cannot do anything with my left arm, and always need help putting upper clothing on,” he said. “I need help with buttoning anything.”
Sitting with his family in the long-term care facility where he spends five days a week during an exclusive interview with the AFRO, Gray says he struggles to see, sleep, and hold onto short-term memories.
“Sometimes I’m forgetting things that happen immediately,” he said. “I am definitely slower than normal.”
Last week the city approved a $8 million settlement for Gray after a long, protracted legal battle. Gray’s lawyer, A. Dwight Pettit, attributed the agreement to the intervention of Mayor Jack Young.
“I think he was critical to this,” Pettit told the AFRO.
Gray, along with a group of police cadets from a variety of local agencies, was taken to a desolate abandoned warehouse in Baltimore County for firearms training in February of 2013 under the auspices of the Baltimore City Police Department. There, William Kern, a firearms trainer lead what was supposed to be a training exercise using fake guns loaded with blanks.
But, Kern ignored procedure and used a real gun. And for reasons that remain unexplained, pointed that gun at Gray and fired. The bullet struck Gray’s head, causing a near-fatal wound. The bullet also destroyed Gray’s left eye, another injury that still haunts him today.
“We will have to pull my left eye out just to clean it, and make sure my left eye socket is not damaged,” he said of prosthetic he uses. “We have to make sure I don’t’ have blood in my eye socket.
Prosecutors charged Kern with reckless endangerment and second-degree assault, both misdemeanors. A Baltimore County jury convicted Kern on the endangerment count in 2013 and he spent 60 days in jail. Kern subsequently resigned from the police department.
“It has changed my life. It has affected how I plan my life,” Raymond’s mother, Carolyn Gray told the AFRO. “My life now is planned around taking care of Raymond. “
The settlement will fund the lifelong care for Gray who now lives in the around the clock, 24-hour care facility in Silver Spring. The deal marks a stark turnaround for years Baltimore’s law department has refused to settle the case, offering just $200,000 to the man who now spends his days struggling to live a normal life.
The city argued that even though Gray had sued in federal court, a state law that caps municipal settlements for negligence applies, prompting a district court federal judge to throw out the case.
But, Pettit appealed to the 4th Circuit, which remanded the case back to district court for a trial. Pettit said the settlement is a rare win for plaintiffs who are battling the city over other cases of misconduct, including the notorious Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF), whose eight members were found guilty of robbing residents, planting guns, and stealing overtime pay.
“Even when the judgments have been rendered, the city has appealed on technicalities and delayed, anything they can do to not pay.”
Last month lawyers for the city argued Baltimore should not be on the hook for the actions of the three members of the GTTF. The case centered on the false arrest and imprisonment of William James. James was charged with six felonies and spent seven months in jail after Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, Det. Marcus Taylor, and Det. Jemell Rayam planted a gun on him in 2016. But, even with a judgement of roughly $100,000 against the officers, the city argued it should not have to pay because the GTTF was acting outside the scope of their responsibilities, a legal loophole the city is using to avoid payouts in roughly 20 pending cases.
However, a Baltimore judge ruled the city was liable, a decision city solicitor Andre Davis said would be appealed.