Editor's Note: This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.
Controversy erupted this past week over the arrest and subsequent death of Freddie Gray, a black Baltimore native.
Gray, 25, died from a severe spinal cord injury on Sunday at the University of Maryland R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, one week after being arrested by Baltimore Police Department (BPD) officers at the 1700 block of Prestbury Street in West Baltimore. Six BPD officers involved in the case have been suspended with pay.
“I’m determined to make sure that we have a full investigation and we follow all of the rules and procedures, so if there is a finding of wrongdoing… we can hold those individuals accountable,” Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in a press conference on Monday. “I want to make sure that we get this right, that we continue to put out as much information as possible.”
A BPD task force is currently conducting an internal investigation and will send a report of its findings to the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office by May 1.
Police Commissioner Anthony Batts explained at a press conference on Friday that the BPD's investigation will continue even after the report has been handed.
"I'm sure [the State's Attorney's Office] going to have questions and they're going to send us back out to reinterview people. They're going to send us back out to get more evidence, so that is not the end of this investigation on May first - that is just us sitting down and providing all the data that we have," Batts said.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Justice Department opened a civil rights investigation into Gray’s death.
Kwame Alston, a freshman representative on the executive board of the Black Student Union (BSU), stated the BSU’s position on Gray’s arrest and death.
“The BSU is saddened but not surprised by the recent events with Freddie Gray. It’s even more saddening that it happened in our very own back yard. We will most likely not be having a display because it is so close to the end of the year, but we are sending love to his family,” Alston wrote in an email to The News-Letter.
Gray was arrested on the morning of April 12 after running from three police officers who were patrolling the area on bikes. According to Deputy Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez, one of the officers, a lieutenant, made eye contact with Gray and another individual at 8:39 a.m. along the 1600 block of West North Ave., near the intersection of W. North Ave. and North Mount St., and both men began running.
“The officers were deployed in an area that’s called a hot spot because [it’s a] high crime area. There’s a lot of narcotics activity there,” Rodriguez said at the Monday press conference. “They believed that Mr. Gray had either just committed or was committing a crime, and that’s why he ran... I’m neither validating, supporting or rendering a decision. I’m merely stating the facts of what they gave us.”
Gray ran two blocks south to the 1700 block of Prestbury Street before he was stopped and arrested at 8:40 a.m. Officers found a knife on Gray’s person during the arrest, but Rawlings-Blake explained that this finding does not necessarily justify their pursuit of Gray.
“We know that having a knife is not necessarily a crime. It is not necessarily probable cause to chase someone,” Rawlings-Blake said.
According to Rodriguez, Gray did not resist arrest, and the officers claim they did not use force against him. One of the officers took out a taser but did not use it, Rodriguez said, as evidenced by information downloaded off of the taser and an examination of Gray’s body.
According to Rodriguez, no parts of Gray’s body, other than his spinal cord, appear to have been injured.
“There was no physical, bodily injury that we saw nor was it evident in the autopsy of Mr. Gray. None of his limbs were broken. He did suffer a very tragic injury to his spinal cord, which resulted in his death. What we don’t know and what we need to get to is how that injury occurred,” Rodriguez said.
Batts clarified on Friday that police do not yet have access to the medical examiner's final report.
"We received a preliminary verbal report the medical examiner, not the official report. They still are working on that. They still have to complete a toxicology that can take 30 to 45 days. What I'm told is they may be bringing experts in to look at the spine and I don't know how long that will take," Batts said.
Deputy Commissioner Kevin Davis said on Friday that Gray should have received medical attention immediately after the chase ended and he was arrested.
"It's a foot chase that's not a short one. It goes through several streets, several housing complexes and eventually ends up along the 1700 block of Prestbury and that's where the apprehension of Freddie Gray occurred and, quite frankly, that's exactly where Freddie Gray should have received medical attention and he did not," Davis said.
At 8:42 a.m. a van was requested, and Gray asked for an inhaler. He did not receive one.
According to Rodriguez, Gray was breathing when he was placed in the van.
“I know that when Mr. Gray was placed inside that van, he was able to talk. He was upset,” Rodriguez said.
Amateur videos shot by witnesses show officers kneeling beside and behind Gray, who is lying facedown on a sidewalk with his hands behind his back. Officers then lift Gray up and walk him over to the police van. Gray’s feet drag along the ground, and he cries out seemingly in pain.
Batts admitted on Friday that Gray was not wearing a seatbelt while riding inside the van.
"We know he was not buckled in the transportation wagon as he should have been. No excuses for that, period," Batts said.
At 8:46 a.m. the van driver reported Gray acting irate in the back of the van. A few seconds later a police unit asked the van to pull over at the intersection of N. Mount Street and Baker Street so that paperwork could be completed. While the van was stopped, Gray was taken out, placed in leg irons and put back into the van.
The van began driving again at 8:54 a.m. Davis said Friday that the van stopped for a second time, at Druid Hill Avenue and Dolphin Street. Davis did not specify the time.
Batts said the stop was made because Gray was on the floor of the van.
"They [officers] pick him up off the floor and place him on the seat... He says he needs a medic," Batts said.
Davis said Gray was not strapped into the seat at that stop.
"At no point did he have a seatbelt on," Davis said.
At 8:59 a.m., at North Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue, the driver picked up another male prisoner who was put in the back with Gray. However, the men were separated by a metal barrier so they could hear but not see one another. The other prisoner has been interviewed by the police. Also at 8:59 a.m. the driver of the van asked for an additional unit to check on Gray.
At 9:24 a.m. the van arrived at the Western District Police Station about six blocks from the site of Gray’s arrest, and a medic was called.
“When Mr. Gray was taken out of that van, he could not talk and he could not breathe,” Rodriguez said.
Batts acknowledged that medical attention should have been sought sooner.
“At one or two of the stops, it was noticed that he was having a little trouble breathing where we should have probably asked for paramedics,” Batts said at the Monday press conference.
Davis said on Friday that the BPD is looking into the van's route and stops.
"Each and every leg of this transport is begin investigated - so how long it took, the distance, the likely travel route. We're in the process of making sure that we can absolutely nail down the travel route. We're close to that," Davis said. "But beyond the route that was taken we need to know, from A to Z, what happened at each and every stop - who was present at each and every stop, the extent that Mr. Gray asked for asked for medical assistance at each and every stop and our interaction with Mr. Gray."
The BPD will be changing its policies regarding prisoner transport and medical assistance, according to Batts.
“I have ordered a number of policies to be reviewed and rewritten, effective immediately... This includes our in-custody transportation procedures and also includes the policies that address people in custody requiring medical attention. Any time someone requests medical attention in any context, immediately we are to respond to that,“ Batts said.
Rodriguez said he was unsure when Gray’s spinal cord was injured.
“I know Mr. Gray suffered a very traumatic injury, but I don’t know if it happened prior to him getting into the van or while he was in the van,” Rodriguez said.
Rawlings-Blake believes Gray was injured in the van.
“It’s clear that what happened happened inside the van,” she said.
Batts announced on Monday that six officers, including the van driver and the three bike patrol officers, have been suspended with pay. Batts said they are being paid in accordance with Maryland state law.
On Tuesday, the BPD identified the officers as Lieutenant Brian Rice, Sergeant Alicia White, Officer William Porter, Officer Garrett Miller, Officer Edward Nero and Officer Caesar Goodson.
Batts said Friday that the five of the officers have chosen to give statements.
Baltimore residents have been protesting Gray’s injury and death at the hands police since Saturday, the day before Gray’s death. The protests have remained peaceful with participants holding up signs and chanting phrases including “All night, all day, we’re gonna fight for Freddie Gray.” Gray’s family joined protesters on Tuesday night in a march from the site of Gray’s arrest to the Western District police station.
At the Monday press conference, Rawlings-Blake said that she hopes the protests will remain peaceful.
“Our community is experiencing a great deal of trauma, and none of us get the answers that we need or that the Gray family deserves by resorting to violence,” she said.
Deputy Commissioner Dean Palmere said on Friday that the BPD, with the help of other Maryland law enforcement agencies, will monitor but not interfere with the demonstrations.
"We respect the right for individuals to demonstrate and we will protect the constitutional right for people to demonstrate... We cannot stress enough the need for peaceful demonstrations as we gather through these tough times," Palmere said.
Alston said that he is upset by the lack of information available about Gray’s death.
“I’m just really upset to see, at the time, [it] happening over and over again where a black male is killed by a police officer and then we don’t have information on what actually happened... I just want answers, honestly,” Alston said.
Batts said Friday that the BPD is not disclosing all information about the case to the public for legal reasons.
"What you see us... balancing here is that if someone harmed Freddie Gray we're going to have to prosecute them and so giving too much information out... may jeopardize that prosecution," Batts said.
Alston is also concerned by the lack of discussion regarding this case among the student body. He mentioned an email sent out by University President Ronald J. Daniels on Monday announcing the launch of JHU Forums on Race in America, a series of mixed-format discussions. The beginning of the email references Gray’s death.
“You’ve seen the footage. In Ferguson, Staten Island, North Charleston — and right here in Baltimore — controversy over the treatment of minorities has again turned a spotlight on America’s painful legacy on race,” the email states.
Alston does not believe that the email contributed significantly to campus discussion.
“Prior to the big email by President Daniels, I didn’t really hear anyone on campus talking about it, so that really saddens me,” Alston said. “And even in the email, it’s not really directly stated — it’s just saying ‘right here in Baltimore,’ so I don’t think a lot of people on campus really know about it.”
Timeline of Events
8:39 a.m. – Officer makes eye contact with Gray and another individual; both men run and three officers pursue them.
8:40 a.m. – Gray stopped and arrested.
8:42 a.m. – Officers request transport van; Gray asks for inhaler.
8:46 a.m. – Van driver reports Gray acting irate in the back of the van; unit asks van to pull over to fill out paperwork.
8:54 a.m. – Van begins driving again.
undisclosed time between 8:54 a.m. and 8:59 a.m. – Van stops again, Gray picked up off the floor and put back in the seat; Grays asks for a medic
8:59 a.m. –Driver picks up another male prisoner; asks for additional unit to check on Gray.
9:24 a.m. – Van arrives at Western District police station; medic called.
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