WAMO suspends DJ over posting in Freddie Gray's death

Mike Jax/Freddie Gray
Mike Jax/Freddie Gray

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ A radio station has suspended a disc jockey over his online posting about the arrest record of a Baltimore man whose fatal injury in police custody led to rioting.
Officials at FM station WAMO 100, which bills itself as Pittsburgh’s No. 1 choice for urban music, said April 29 the posting by Mike Jax was “too controversial” and partly inaccurate. They also said listeners had complained and threatened to harm Jax, whose real name is Mike Jackson.
Jax has been suspended indefinitely, station general manager Jamal Woodson said. It will take at least two weeks to review the matter further, he said.
On Tuesday, Jax posted on Instagram a list of criminal charges he said Freddie Gray had faced in recent years and the comment: “He was pretty busy before he was unjustly killed at the hands of Baltimore PD. (hash)prayforbaltimore.”
He later apologized online, saying he wasn’t trying to justify Gray’s death, but just the opposite.
In an interview Wednesday, Jax said he understood that the timing of his comments was “very insensitive” and for that he was sorry.
“I thought it was a valid piece of information to be part of the dialogue of the continuing, developing story,” he said. “I was only trying to promote discussion.”
Woodson, the general manager, said “the problem with the post is it was too controversial.”
“He stated his opinion, which was borderline going against … the person who passed away,” Woodson said.
Jax told the station “what he wrote is not what he meant” but “it seemed like he was just saying one thing when he was saying another,” Woodson said.
WAMO’s marketing director, Lisha Logan, said the station received angry calls, including some threats that “people would come up to the station to harm Mike Jax.”
As a result, she said, the suspension was also “for his safety as well as the people at the station.”
Logan also said the station found some of the arrest information posted by Jax to be incorrect.
“The implication was that this person did in fact check the information before he posted it,” and because Jax is an on-air personality he was attaching his credibility and the station’s to the post, Logan said.
Online court records have shown Gray was in and out of prison for several drug convictions in Baltimore, starting in 2008. He also had a trial scheduled May 21 on drug charges stemming from an arrest in December.
Baltimore police say they chased Gray when he fled at the sight of an officer in a drug-infested neighborhood this month. Officers pinned Gray to the sidewalk and then lifted him and took him, his legs dragging on the ground, to a police van.
Gray, who asked repeatedly for medical help during the half-hour ride to the police station, died a week later. His story and videos of his arrest have prompted protests and riots in Baltimore.
Police say Gray died of a “significant spinal injury.” An attorney for Gray’s family says his spine was “80 percent severed in the neck area.”
Associated Press writer Larry Rosenthal in Philadelphia contributed to this report.

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