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Freddie Gray's relatives say they are going through the most difficult time of their lives — but they are encouraged by criminal charges brought against six police officers, and they are holding on to hope that his loss might change the country.
"It does me proud to see so many people caring for justice and raising the name of Freddie in that manner," his stepfather, Richard Shipley, told NBC News' Lester Holt in an exclusive interview.
"Maybe it'll change laws," he said. "Or maybe Freddie'll be a martyr and his name will live on forever. And that makes us very proud."
Gray, 25, died last month after sustaining a fatal spinal cord injury in police custody. Baltimore's top prosecutor said Friday that he never should have been arrested, and filed charges — including second-degree murder — against the officers.
Baltimore erupted in riots last week after his death, and the governor sent the National Guard to keep the peace. Relative calm returned, and on Sunday the city lifted a weeklong overnight curfew.
Shipley said that the loss is still fresh and the family is still mourning. For Fredricka Gray, his twin sister, coping has not been easy. She said it feels like her own left hand is missing.
"I can't sleep at night some nights," she said. "I cry. Like, I really miss him. The pain, I feel like it's unbearable."
Shipley said that he was "hurt and ashamed" by the riots. But watching the city come together made him proud.
"We are a city of caring and loving people," he said. "The violence that occurred was just a moment of just outrage and discouragement and mistrust. But when people would start rallying together, it showed when they heard the decision, that justice will prevail."
Gray's mother, Gloria Darden, said she still feels empty and numb.
"I will never be the same," she said in tears. "I will never be the same."
The family said that the surprisingly quick announcement of the charges against the six officers, coupled with the public support and calls for justice, has been pivotal in helping them heal.
"It really makes me feel there's hope, you know?" she said. "It feels that I'm going to get justice for my son."
The charges are only a first step, she said, "But I was really happy that it turned out this way. But we all know this is only the beginning. And we want to see how far it goes."
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