An arrest for an illegal knife ended in Freddie Gray’s death in police custody. The media and BLM circus descended on Baltimore to fan the flames and days of rioting ensued. None of the officer’s involved have thus far been convicted.
In what amounts to an extremely minor footnote in a sad chapter for our Nation and the City of Baltimore, WBAL has obtained the previously unreleased evidence-photo of the knife which has been the subject of so much discussion.
The knife is the documented reason why city police arrested Gray on April 12, 2015. Neither prosecutors nor the defense introduced it as evidence in the officers’ trials.
The knife blade is 3 inches long. According to a product description, it is called an assist knife and is sometimes known as a rescue-style assist knife.
The knife’s features include a seat-belt cutter and a glass breaker, and it comes with a clip. The 11 News I-Team contacted Baltimore City retailers and learned that it is sold in the city for as little as $4.
The knife also plays role in a civil lawsuit against Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosbythat was filed by five of the six officers charged in the Gray case. A federal judge who is still deciding whether the lawsuit will go forward said the knife overlaps two claims, one regarding the arrest warrant and the other concerning the defamation claim.
It is a pretty unremarkable knife, especially given its outsized significance as a historical curiosity. An imported folder with a seat-belt cutter and glass-breaker that at the time of this writing sells for $10 on Ebay.
David has written about the case from both a local’s point-of-view and that of a law-abiding knife owner residing in the Beltway. There is not much that I have to add to either what David had to say or what I have written previously. Reason Magazine had a great piece, and there is this release from KnifeRights that somehow slipped through the cracks when this was frontpage news.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – May 1, 2015 – Gilbert, AZ: In the case of the arrest on a knife charge and subsequent death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby charged that Freddie Gray was falsely arrested and that the knife in his pocket was not an illegal switchblade. Mosby is filing murder charges against one officer while others are being charged with crimes including manslaughter and assault.
According to news reports and court documents, Freddie Gray was arrested after a police officer supposedly found a “switchblade” in his pocket. But, the court documents (click to review) reveal something else: “The officer noticed a knife clipped to the inside of his front right pants pocket. The defendant was arrested without force or incident,” the documents say. “The knife was recovered by this officer and found to be a spring-assisted, one-hand-operated knife.” (Emphasis added.) Note that the officer did not refer to the knife as a “switchblade.”
Maryland law (§4–101) prohibits concealed carry of switchblades, but open carry and possession are not illegal. The court documents state that the knife was visibly clipped to Gray’s pocket. Therefore, it was not concealed, and accordingly not illegal, even if it had been a switchblade. But, it clearly wasn’t even a switchblade according to the court documents — it was an assisted-opening knife (meaning that the blade had to be opened manually part way before the spring assist was engaged and opened it the rest of the way).
Maryland does not have knife law preemption, so municipalities such as Baltimore are allowed to fabricate laws more restrictive than the state itself. Baltimore’s city code (§ 59-22 Switch-blade knives) prohibits the sale, carry or possession of “any knife with an automatic spring or other device for opening and/or closing the blade, commonly known as a switch-blade knife.” While it might be possible in theory to interpret that unusual definition of “switch-blade” to include assisted-opening knives, such an interpretation would conflict with virtually all other switchblade definitions throughout the country. Additionally, the court documents show that the arresting officer clearly knew it was not a switchblade; the officer easily could have referred to it as a switchblade instead of accurately describing it as a “spring-assisted, one-hand-operated knife.”
While it is theoretically possible that without the presence of a knife in his pocket, Gray might have been arrested on some other trumped-up charge, it is clear that the presence of a knife was used as the actual basis for the arrest, and the practice has unfortunately become a common one.
Thousands of law-abiding citizens are regularly harassed and arrested for nothing more than carrying this basic tool, and that is unacceptable. Knife Rights is committed to forging a Sharper Future™ by passing knife law preemption and removing all restrictions on the lawful carry of knives. Those who misuse any tool (knife or otherwise) in the commission of a crime should be severely punished, but law-abiding citizens who possess knives should be left alone.
Charging Documents in Freddie Gray Case: http://www.kniferights.org/263171878-Freddie-Gray-Charging-Documents.pdf
Baltimore Switchblade Law: http://baltimorecode.org/19/59/59-22/