Dreams Deferred: Greg Bailey, who allegedly cut a fire hose on CNN; Romell Turner, arrested for "gazing upon the stars"

A CNN newscaster is talking to local activist PFK Boom near the burning CVS at the corner of Pennsylvania and North avenues around 6:50 p.m. on Monday, April 27, when someone punctures the fire hose being used to fight the blaze. Water flies up into the air and drops down onto Boom and the talking head. On the footage, it’s not clear who punctured the hose, but a moment later a young man wearing a gas mask and a red and gray hoodie calmly walks up to it, dips down in a sort of pirouette, and sticks a knife blade into the hose. He walks away, the blade still extended. 

A release from the deputy state fire marshall says, “The action of puncturing the hose line caused an immediate drop in water pressure and endangered the lives of fire service personnel at the scene who were forced to withdraw and immediately reestablish a secondary water supply source.”

But when the CNN anchor asks Boom if he would rather see his neighborhood burn, the activist says “What you’re getting an example of is what’s really inside of everybody for about 20 years.”

The man in the gas mask who allegedly cut the hose is a 22-year-old, identified by police as Greg Bailey. He is being held without bail in the Baltimore City Detention Center on other charges.

About an hour after the hose was punctured, at roughly 8:05 p.m. two detectives, John Matzerath and John Gilden, claim they saw a young man they identified as Bailey “riding a bicycle . . . wearing a black ski mask and a green gas mask which concealed his face” in front of the 7-Eleven on the 300 block of North Charles Street. They say they watched him enter the store through the shattered front door. “We exited our vehicle, walked to the front door and observed Bailey inside the commercial business with an open knife, blade full extended, in his left hand as he attempted to place packages of cigarettes into a black backpack.”

The detectives do not say whether there was anyone else in the store or whether they arrested anyone else at the same time. They never recovered any cigarettes, but note that “while Bailey was being placed into the rear of the prisoner transport van, he broke free (hands handcuffed behind him) and ran northbound in the 300 block of N. Charles Street. He was captured after a brief foot chase without incident.” He was charged with second-degree escape, possession of a dangerous weapon with intent to injure, and attempted theft of less than $100.

Later that week, on the same day that charges were brought against the officers allegedly involved in Freddie Gray’s death, Bailey was charged with crimes surrounding the firehose incident, including malicious destruction of property, reckless endangerment, and obstructing firefighters. News stories at the time said that he was being held on unrelated charges, although all of his charges stem from the rioting and occurred within the span of a single hour.

Bailey was denied bail because of the alleged attempted escape. But his attorney, J. Wyndal Gordon, filed a “Petition for Habeas Corpus Relief for Modification of ‘No Bail’ status for Misdemeanor Nonviolent Offenses,” which claims that “curiously, while arrested, placed in handcuffs without incident, long after the pocket knife was seized, police alleged that Defendant tried to run away. Defendant actually sustained injuries by police that did not require hospitalization.”

On the phone Gordon is more emphatic. “He is in handcuffs, in custody, and sustained injuries . . . which leads me to believe he is beaten, [that] they threw in the escape charge” to cover that up, he says. Gordon further claims that Bailey went into the store to “check on the shopkeeper to see if he and the store was alright.” He goes on to say that “no one was threatened by the pocket knife. There were no injuries to police or property, no property actually stolen, and no one placed in fear because the store was previously vandalized, left unsecured, and abandoned by the shopkeeper; no other customers were present.”

Gordon argues in his filing that the purpose of the bail is to ensure attendance at the trial, not to punish the individual, and includes the criminal charges and bail amounts for all six officers charged in connection with the death of Freddie Gray, to show the disparity involved in Bailey’s no-bail status. The city has not responded to the habeas corpus writ.

Court documents list Bailey as living with Greg Butler, his father. And, according to Sam Brand, a basketball coach and teacher at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, Bailey went by the name Greg Butler when he attended Poly until he graduated in 2012. “He was a great student athlete here at Poly,” Brand said over the phone. “Super intelligent kid, definitely has gone through his hardships, but at the same time, it should be a kid that moves on to college.”

In fact, if not for a quirk in the way that Baltimore city schools calculate GPAs, Bailey could have been far away from the rioting in Baltimore, at college in Florida, on April 27.

Brand and Greg Butler, the basketball player that Brand claims is the same person as the incarcerated Greg Bailey, feature prominently in a 2014 story Erica Green wrote in The Sun about weighted GPAs and the way they affect students. According to Green’s story Greg Butler “says he lost out on a $46,000-a-year basketball scholarship to St. Leo University in Florida. The grades he earned in his seven honors classes during senior year weren’t enough to qualify for for an NCAA scholarship.”

Brand, who also teaches math, added that “Butler’s 1.51 in the city would have been a 2.125 in the county,” because they were honors classes—and would have allowed him to receive the scholarship.

According to Brand, Butler ended up attending community college before he dropped out and started doing home improvement. Brand says he runs Butler LLC, but City Paper can find no record of such a business and court documents list E M Designz as Bailey’s place of employment.

Green’s story concludes with Butler saying “I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time . . . Same grades, different district, different story.” City Paper has not been able to talk to Greg Bailey/Butler directly.

This small matter of policy, this miniscule quirk, is part of what “is really inside of everybody,” as Boom put it while the city erupted.

Another person had her arrest during the protests—this time on the last night of the curfew—gain attention on MSNBC when she said, “for me to be arrested while gazing upon the stars.”

Romell Turner was arrested near the intersection of Pennsylvania and North, where she had approached City Paper an hour or so earlier. “I want people to be to be out here for education, she said at the time. “Baltimore City schools failed me.” We spoke for about 15 minutes before Turner and her friend left the intersection as the onset of the 10 p.m. curfew grew near.

Turner says that she tried to call a cab and to get a hack in order to get home. With no luck, she called her sister and asked for a ride. She found a place to sit on the steps of an abandoned house, with another protester trying to get home, to wait for her sister to arrive. Shortly she was approached by police.

“The way they approached us was so condescending,” she says of the police, who, she says, asked, “Do you know how to tell time?”

Turner told them that she is a biology student at Towson. The officers, she says, told her that they didn’t believe she could be a student because of the way she was talking.

“I been through the education system here in Baltimore myself,” Turner said later. “I didn’t go back to school until I was 27, if I was given all the tools that other children were given, who would know where I could be right now. They pushed four desks together so we could share one book. I was just failed. Math was a struggle for me. One of my [current] professors said I lack basic foundations. I really think the school system failed me. Luckily I have a father who taught me a lot. I don’t want to see that happen to a whole ’nother generation. It is set up for us to fail. I know they failed me. Me being black and in Baltimore City I feel like I had an X on my back, like I didn’t matter.”

Turner felt like she didn’t matter once again when she saw how differently the white protesters in Hampden were treated at the same time she was arrested. “It’s dehumanizing,” she says.

Turner, who says she initially fled from the police, but returned when she saw they had handcuffed the man she was sitting on the porch with, felt like she was paraded in front of the media as they brought her to the van. She declared herself a citizen of the earth—leading some to believe that she was an “outside agitator,” rather than a Baltimore City resident.

She says that the officers did not secure her with a seatbelt when they put her in the back of the van. “I stuck my head up and said I’m not in a seatbelt, I’m not in a seatbelt. I’m about to die in here the same way Freddie Gray died. That’s when an officer came back and hooked me in.”

A week after being released, however, Turner is not as worried about ending up like Freddie Gray as she is about Baltimore’s current generation of students ending up like her or Greg Bailey. “What are we going to do about the schools?” she asks. “We’re still failing our people.”

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