Police claim that Freddie Gray fled when they tried to talk to him, and that after tackling him to the ground they found him carrying an illegal switchblade knife and took him into custody.
Baltimore police leaked a document to the Washington Post suggesting that Freddie Gray killed himself, basing that speculation on statements from an unnamed inmate who was also in the van with Gray, but sitting handcuffed on the other side of the van, separated by a metal partition that does not allow visibility.
A prisoner sharing the police transport van with Freddie Gray told investigators that he could hear Gray “banging against the walls” of the vehicle and believed that he “was intentionally trying to injure himself,” according to a police document obtained by The Washington Post.
The prisoner, who is currently in jail, was separated from Gray by a metal partition and could not see him. His statement is contained in an application for a search warrant, which is sealed by the court.
The document, written by a Baltimore police investigator, offers the first glimpse of what might have happened inside the van. It is not clear whether any additional evidence backs up the prisoner’s version, which is just one piece of the ongoing investigation.
Jayne Miller, an investigative reported from WBAL-TV, who has been reporting this story from the beginning, quickly disputed the claim.
PINAC Be The Media reported that Miller was interviewed on MSNBC shortly after the article was posted, saying that her station was aware of this document, but never reported on it because it did not correlate with the timeline they had compiled. She also pointed out that Police Commissioner Anthony Batts had previously stated that Gray was already unresponsive when the second suspect was placed into the van.
But the story that Gray was responsible for his own death is something that has been making the rounds on social media, including from a Baltimore police detective named Avi Tasher who made the claim on Facebook last weekend, only to shut down his page after backlash from critics as we reported here.
Baltimore media refused to accept these claims, but the Washington Post went with this story:
The van driver stopped three times while transporting Gray to a booking center, the first to put him in leg irons. Batts said the officer driving the van described Gray as “irate.” The search warrant application says Gray “continued to be combative in the police wagon.”
The driver made a second stop, five minutes later, and asked an officer to help check on Gray. At that stop, police have said the van driver found Gray on the floor of the van and put him back on the seat, still without restraints. Police said Gray asked for medical help at that point.
The third stop was to put the other prisoner — a 38-year-old man accused of violating a protective order — into the van. The van was then driven six blocks to the Western District station. Gray was taken from there to a hospital, where he died April 19.
The prisoner, who is in jail, could not be reached for comment. No one answered the phone at his house, and an attorney was not listed in court records.
Batts has said officers violated policy by failing to properly restrain Gray. But the president of the Baltimore police union noted that the policy mandating seat belts took effect April 3 and was e-mailed to officers as part of a package of five policy changes on April 9, three days before Gray was arrested.
Gene Ryan, the police union president, said many officers aren’t reading the new policies – updated to meet new national standards – because they think they’re the same rules they already know, with only cosmetic changes. The updates are supposed to be read out during pre-shift meetings.
The previous policy was written in 1997, when the department used smaller, boxier wagons that officers called “ice cream trucks.” They originally had a metal bar that prisoners had to hold during the ride. Seat belts were added later, but the policy left their use discretionary.
Freddie Gray has become the new face of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, with many believing his death was caused by police during or after the arrest as video coverage clearly shows he was unable to walk. His death has not only prompted demonstrations in Baltimore, but in several cities across the nation.
Gray died the morning of April 19 at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center from his spinal injuries.
Daily Mail reported that the assertion that Gray may have caused his own death in the back of the police van was quickly refuted by an attorney hired by his family.
‘We disagree with any implication that Freddie Gray severed his own spinal cord,’ attorney Jason Downs told the Post. ‘We question the accuracy of the police reports we’ve seen thus far, including the police report that says Mr Gray was arrested without force or incident.’
And local reporters have also found inconsistencies with the leaked affidavit. According to WBAL reporter Jayne Miller, police originally said that the second prisoner in the van told investigators that Gray was ‘mostly quiet’.
Sources also told the station that by the time the second prisoner was in the van, Gray was unresponsive.
Cell phone footage captured the moment Gray was arrested by police near a housing project in west Baltimore on April 12.
Police say Gray fled when they tried to talk to him, and that after tackling him to the ground they found him carrying an illegal switchblade knife and took him into custody.
A senior law enforcement source charges that Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake gave an order for police to stand down as riots broke out Monday night, raising more questions about whether some of the violence and looting could have been prevented.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake denies the allegations.
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