NOTE: Updated at 2:31pm Eastern to reflect new or updated information.
A few conservative blogs are circulating some unsubstantiated rumors that Freddie Gray Jr. had spinal surgery a week prior to his fateful arrest and subsequent death in Baltimore Police custody.
Examples of the allegations can be found on Snopes, since I’m not interested in linking to those other blogs. Snopes currently lists this rumor as “unconfirmed”, although they indicate:
The claim appeared almost simultaneously in three places: The Facebook page of Baltimore-based Fox affilate WBFF, the blog The Conservative Treehouse, and the blog The Fourth Estate.
Public records from Maryland County courts were linked, but much of the claim hinged on “sources” and dot-connecting.
At the time of my search, I found this case for Fredericka Gray (Gray’s mother).
Due to some 404 errors (the Maryland public records search may have been temporarily offline or overloaded with requests), I was initially unable to find the related 13C14101574, I mistakenly concluded that this screenshot had been doctored to use Freddie’s name in lieu of his mother’s. Case 13C14101574 is from the original screenshots, and so they do not appear to have been altered, as I had originally suspected. Here are the screenshots from that case number:
In any case, this case involve Gray as party to an out-of-court civil settlement with Allstate, and not from a “recent car accident”.
The Baltimore Sun has since reported that these cases involve the restructuring of that settlement.
Court records examined by the Baltimore Sun show the case had nothing to do with a car accident or a spine injury. Instead, they are connected to a lawsuit alleging that Gray and his sister were injured by exposure lead paint.
Of course it is still possible that Gray was involved in an automobile accident and/or had spinal surgery a week prior to his arrest, but the dots certainly do not connect in the manner that the conservative blogs would have you believe.
And even if Gray had a recent surgery, that still does not absolve the Baltimore Police Department of what appears to be obvious neglect of a suspect in their custody.
WBFF, Baltimore’s Fox affiliate network has since pulled the story from their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FOXBaltimore/posts/10152842719584607
Snopes has gone back and forth on this all day, sometimes it is listed as “False” and sometimes as “Undetermined”. Until evidence supporting the “Car accident and surgery” narrative surfaces, though, I’m inclined to believe it’s false.