How Freddie Gray Died Continues To Be A Mystery As Two Startling Accounts Challenge Claims Of Police Brutality
Two startling accounts that came out Wednesday has added more questions about how Freddie Gray died and the mysterious circumstances surrounding the 25-year-old black man's fatal spinal injury, which he sustained while in Baltimore police custody on April 12. After being in a week-long coma, Gray died from those injuries, and his death sparked numerous protests against police brutality nationwide as well as fiery riots in the Maryland city Monday. Baltimore officials said they would wrap their investigation Friday and hand over their findings to state prosecutors, who would then decide whether to prosecute the six officers involved in Gray's arrest. The U.S. Department of Justice is also conducting a separate probe into Gray's death.
Citing obtained police documents, a Washington Post report on Wednesday said a prisoner who was in the same police transport vehicle as Gray told investigators he thought Gray "was intentionally trying to injure himself" by "banging against the walls" of the van. According to the Post, the unnamed prisoner, who is reportedly still in jail, said he could not see Gray because the two were separated by a metal divide. Baltimore officials had previously said they did not know how Gray was injured and whether those injuries were sustained during his arrest or during the 30-minute ride to the police department. Bustle's request for comments to the Baltimore Police Department were not immediately returned.
CNN on Wednesday also aired an interview with an unidentified woman who claimed to be related to one of the six officers involved, who have since been suspended without pay. With her face blurred from viewers, the woman said an officer told her Gray was injured before he was put inside the transport van. The woman also offered an explanation for why Gray was not buckled to his seat while inside the police van, a violation of protocol Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts had previously acknowledged. She told CNN the officers did not want to reach over to strap Gray in because he was "irate."
He still has his teeth and he still has his saliva. So in order to seat belt somebody, you have to get in their personal space. They're not going to get in his personal space if he's already irate.
While both accounts come to the defense of the officers, meaning Gray's death was not an act of police violence, the fact remains that the two stories differ on one critical detail — namely, how and when Gray was injured — meaning at least one person is wrong. Did the injuries happen before he was placed into the van? Did Gray intentionally hurt himself on his way to the police precinct? Or is there another story still untold on what really happened that April day?
The unknown circumstances surrounding Gray's death has furthered exasperated the already strained relations between police and the primarily black Baltimore community. Even more so, Baltimore police Capt. Eric Kowalczyk said on MSNBC's The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell Wednesday night its internal report wouldn't be made public in order to protect the investigation. Regardless of when that information is finally disclosed, most will likely wait for the DOJ's findings, much like they did for the federal agency's Ferguson report, which found racial bias in the city's arrests and criminal punishments.