On Tuesday, the Justice Department said it will investigate Freddie Gray's death, the latest incident propelling the anti-police violence movement Black Lives Matter. Gray, 25, died Sunday from a fatal spinal cord injury that was sustained after he was arrested and put in a police van a week earlier. The officers involved in the arrest have since been suspended while Baltimore authorities look into the still unknown circumstances surrounding his injuries. The federal step-in may be a sign that Gray won't follow the same narrative of unmet justice that has followed other young black men who died by police hands.
The Justice Department did not disclose specifics about its probe, but the agency said the FBI, U.S. attorney's office, and civil rights lawyers would be involved. The Justice Department had already pledged in October to review Baltimore officers after reports emerged of multiple instances of excessive force and police misconduct. In a statement, spokeswoman Dena Iverson said:
The Department of Justice has been monitoring the developments in Baltimore, Md., regarding the death of Freddie Gray. Based on preliminary information, the Department of Justice has officially opened this matter and is gathering information to determine whether any prosecutable civil rights violation occurred.
The six officers involved in Gray's arrest, who have since been suspended without pay, were also identified Tuesday: Lt. Brian Rice, 41, the senior officer at the scene with 18 years of service; Officer Garrett Miller, 26; Sgt. Alicia White, 30; Officer William Porter, 25; Officer Edward Nero, 29; and Officer Caesar Goodson, 45. In his report of the incident, Miller wrote, "The defendant was arrested without force or incident."
This isn't the first time the U.S. Department of Justice has stepped in during times of tense race relations. After the death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, the federal agency in March announced the findings of its investigation into civil rights violations within the Ferguson Police Department in Missouri. The DOJ determined the authorities systematically exhibited racial bias and discrimination in its practices.
What's different this time around, however, is the federal government's proactive approach in addressing reports of police brutality. Protests against police violence are still going strong nationwide, with 1,000 people taking to the Baltimore's streets Tuesday after the Justice Department's announcement. The DOJ's Ferguson report came out months after a grand jury already decided not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for Brown's death. Perhaps this time with Gray, the Justice Department's investigation will unearth answers and help bring about its mission: justice.
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