Best friend of Freddie Gray; leader of protests after his death, killed in Baltimore

Juan Grant, who galvanized the demonstrations after Freddie Gray died while in police custody was shot and killed after a car accident, reports say

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In the wake of the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody in 2015, his best friend Juan Grant, took a leadership role in the demonstrations demanding accountability. But in a sad case of irony, like his friend, he also became the victim of homicide.

The Baltimore Sun reported Grant, 33, was gunned down after he was in a car accident.

Police told Frederina Grant, his grandmother, that he was en route back to her house about 8 p.m., Saturday when his black Cadillac struck a dirt bike. But when Grant got out of the car, he was met with gunfire and later died at a local hospital of gunshot wounds to the head.

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“I don’t know whether it was to confront this person or to see if this person was OK,” Grant said of her grandson’s reasoning for getting out of his car. “Whoever it was just shot him.”

Grant helped to hold police accountable after his friend, Gray, was killed. Grant had a close relationship with Gray as his brother shared a child with Gray’s twin sister.

Almost immediately after Gray, 25, died of spinal cord injuries following his arrest for reportedly possessing an illegal knife, Grant went to the police station demanding answers. Grant met with then-Police Commissioner Anthony Batts and then-Deputy Commissioner Kevin Davis.

“He was trying to make a difference in his own way,” Frederina Grant told The Baltimore Sun. “He was determined that he was going to march and have people march with him to find out what happened.”

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Now many in the community are mourning Grant’s untimely death.

Melvin Russell, who formerly headed up the police department’s community relations efforts, before retiring last week, said he remembered how frustrated and angry Grant was after his friend died. Russell said Grant didn’t trust police.

“That’s how we met, through the frustration of what was going on,” Russell told The Sun.

Eventually, Grant would ease up and this enabled Russell to develop a friendly relationship.

The two men would talk over the phone on occasion, but Russell said he was the only officer that Grant had any relationship with, and disputed a rumor that Grant had become a snitch.

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“It was not a situation where he was providing information to the police,” Russell told The Baltimore Sun. “Our conversations were not about police matters — they were just about the state of our city.”

Russell said Grant’s death was “a tragedy.”

So did William H. “Billy” Murphy, the attorney who represented Gray’s family in its $6.4 million settlement from the city. Murphy also told The Sun that Grant’s death was “beyond ironic.”

After Freddie’s death, he became an activist in every sense of the word,” Murphy said in an interview with The Sun. “He participated in almost every demonstration about it and continued after Freddie’s death to be a spokesperson in his and Freddie’s neighborhood about the evils of police brutality and misconduct and what had to be done to reform the department.”