KEITH DAVIS JR. was supposed to die. He had been on the phone with his girlfriend when four police officers cornered him into a dimly lit garage in West Baltimore. They had mistaken him for a robbery suspect, and they mistook his phone for a gun. After yelling at him to drop the gun, they fired 44 rounds at him. “Baby, I’ma die,” he told his girlfriend over the phone. Then she heard him ask the officers, “Why y’all tryin’ to kill me?”
It was June 2015 and tensions in Baltimore had just started simmering after the death of Freddie Gray, who in April of that year had suffered a severed spine when officers loaded him handcuffed, shackled, and unrestrained into a police van. For days, Baltimore had been engulfed in protests and confrontations with police — what half the city called a riot and the other half an uprising. Baltimore police were under scrutiny: The state’s attorney, Marilyn Mosby, had pressed criminal charges against the officers involved in Gray’s death, and the Department of Justice had opened an investigation into the department’s use of force and discriminatory policing. Had he died, Davis would have been the first person killed by city police since Gray, and the 68th in less than a decade.
But Davis didn’t die. Instead he was taken to the hospital, unconscious and in critical condition, where he underwent an emergency surgery that left bullet fragments lodged in his neck and perilously close to his spine. Then, days after the surgery, he was taken to jail.
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