Baltimore investigates death of man in police custody
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 Sunday.
"What we know is that while in police custody for committing no crime, for which they had no justification for making an arrest except that there was a black man running, his spine was virtually severed, 80 percent severed in the neck area, and he died of those injuries," Murphy said.
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.
Gray has been in and out of prison for several drug convictions in Baltimore, starting in 2008, according to online court records. He had a trial scheduled May 21 on new drug charges stemming from an arrest in December.
"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.
Murphy on Sunday disputed that timeline, saying that he believes Gray was in police custody for at least an hour after he was arrested. Murphy added that witnesses he interviewed said the police stopped the van with Gray inside at least one time between the time the man was arrested and when he arrived at the police station.
"Witnesses say police stopped the vehicle and took him out of the vehicle for reasons that are unknown to us and put him back in the vehicle," Murphy said. "Now we hear from reliable sources that they may have stopped two or three more times and taken the man out of the vehicle or dealt with the man in some kind of way in the vehicle before taking him to the Western District."
Police have not released any video of the incident, including the civilian video shown on local news outlets. However, Rodriguez said the video did not reveal use of force by officers.
Murphy said he is conducting his own investigation and has already interviewed 11 witnesses and asked the police department for video footage and other material.
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.
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.
Police declined to specify the races of the officers, who have not been identified. The officers are on administrative leave, as is routine during investigations into use of force.