BALTIMORE (AP) — Baltimore police were conducting a criminal investigation Sunday into the death of a man injured in their custody, and the mayor vowed to ensure the city held “the right people accountable.”
Freddie Gray, 25, of Baltimore, died Sunday at a hospital, a week after he was hurt following an arrest. A timeline released earlier in the week by police said Gray was taken by a van from the scene to a station, where an ambulance was called to treat him and take him to the University of Maryland R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center. Civilian video showed him being loaded into the van, but did not show the entire encounter.
An attorney retained by Gray’s family, Billy Murphy, described extensive injuries in a statement Sunday.
“His spine was 80 percent severed at his neck. He lapsed into a coma, died, was resuscitated, stayed in a coma and on Monday, underwent extensive surgery at Shock Trauma to save his life,” Murphy said. “He clung to life for seven days and died today at approximately 7 a.m.”
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and top police officials promised accountability and transparency Sunday at a news conference at City Hall.
Deputy Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez said a criminal investigation was underway.
“It’s a two-part investigation. One is a criminal case, for Mr. Gray and also the officers. We always have that component in there to determine whether there is criminal culpability,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez declined to specify why four bicycle officers stopped Gray.
“We had officers in a high-crime area known to have high narcotic incidents,” he said “The officers believe that Mr. Gray was immediately involved or recently involved in criminal activity and decided to make contact.”
According to a timetable police released Thursday, the officers spotted Gray at 8:39 a.m. on April 12 along a busy street northwest of downtown. Police say that as they approached, Gray ran. They caught him a minute later about two blocks away. Officers called for a van at 8:42 a.m. At 8:54 a.m. and about a block from the arrest site, the van left for the Western District station “after stopping to place additional restraints on the suspect. Video evidence indicates the suspect is conscious and speaking at this time,” the timeline said. Ten minutes later, at 9:24 a.m., police ask for paramedics to come to the station.
Police have not released any video of the incident, including the civilian video shown on local news outlets. However, Rodriguez talked about it Monday during a news conference announcing the investigation. It showed officers taking Gray from a sidewalk and putting him in the van. It did not show what happened before or after. Rodriguez said the video did not reveal use of force by officers.
On Sunday, Rodriguez was asked if Gray was injured in the van.
“That is truly what we want to find out. There was no evidence — I can say with certainty — we have no physical, video or any other evidence that an altercation,” resulted in injury, he said. “The question is how, and why and if anything contributed from our agency how we can prevent that.”
Rawlings-Blake said she had the same questions as reporters: “How was Mr. Gray injured? Were the proper protocols and procedures actually followed? What are the next steps to take from here?”
She promised a thorough investigation and “real answers” for the community.
“I will ensure we will hold the right people accountable,” Rawlings-Blake said.
Gray’s family has declined, so far, to interact with police, said Police Commissioner Anthony Batts. He said the department would try again this week to share information with them.
“A mother has lost her son,” Batts said. “Freddie Gray passed. My greatest hope and wish and desire is that any time we have an interaction as a police department or a contact, that everyone goes home safe.”
The department, an independent review board and the Baltimore prosecutor’s office will investigate the case, Batts said.
Officers and other witnesses have been interviewed, Rodriguez said. However, not everyone has been interviewed, Rodriguez noted, saying the officers who are subjects of the criminal investigation have a right not to potentially incriminate themselves. He said that if happened, it could “taint” the criminal investigation.
Gray was black; the race of the officers involved could not immediately be confirmed. His death came amid a national debate about the deaths of black men at the hands of police.
The Justice League NYC, which organized a peaceful rally Saturday night with hundreds of people in attendance at the station where Gray was taken, held a march Sunday afternoon to the site with signs that said “Black Lives Matter” and “Unarmed!! One Man.” The first event was scheduled as the league’s “March2Justice” reached Baltimore on its way to a rally Tuesday in Washington.
“Enough is enough! Police brutality must end!” the group said in a statement on Gray’s death.
The officers have not been identified. Police placed them on administrative leave, as is routine during investigations into use of force.