Six Baltimore police officers have been suspended after an autopsy revealed that Freddie Gray, a suspect taken into custody on April 12, had suffered a traumatic injury to his neck. And as the investigation into the young man’s death (he died seven days after emergency surgery was performed the day of his arrest) continues, questions regarding how — and why — he ended up hospitalized have police and city officials scrambling to find answers.
According to an April 22 report from the Baltimore Sun, six officers involved in the arrest and transport of 25-year-old Freddie Gray on the day of his arrest have been suspended with pay. Three of the suspended officers were on bicycle during Gray’s arrest. One of the officers was the police van driver who was called in to transport Gray (and, later, a second suspect in an unrelated incident). The other two officers were later called in to check on Gray in the back of the van while he was being transported, police said.
Court documents reveal that the transport van was stopped at one point because Gray apparently became irate and needed additional restraint. He reportedly was placed in leg irons at this time and the transport continued its drive to the police station.
Witnesses at the scene of Gray’s arrest say they saw the young man chased down, tackled and beaten. However, in the official police report, Gray was supposedly taken into custody without force or incident.
But somewhere along the way, Freddie Gray received injuries that included three fractured vertebra and a crushed larynx. Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts admitted that Gray had asked for medical assistance a number of times but did not receive it until some 40 minutes after his arrest. That came after Gray was delivered to the police station, where paramedics were called in and the suspect was taken to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center and underwent surgery.
ABC News reported that during a news conference on Monday, Baltimore Deputy Police Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez said, “I know that when Mr. Gray was placed inside that van, he was able to talk and he was upset. And when Mr. Gray was taken out of that van, he could not talk and he could not breathe.”
Adding to the growing controversy are questions as to why Freddie Gray was chased and arrested in the first place. The police report indicates that he made eye contact with the police officers and ran, prompting the bicycle officers to give chase. They tackled him and, finding a switchblade knife clipped to his pocket, arrested him.
The reason for the arrest itself was a topic of mystery for a week, the Baltimore Police Department remaining vague about the entire incident. The family attorney for the Gray family even went so far as to accuse the police of withholding evidence, including video footage taken from a city camera at the arrest site, so as to help in covering up wrongdoing by the arresting officers.
In a separate report from the Baltimore Sun concerning Freddie Gray’s spinal cord injury, medical experts noted that a significant amount of trauma would have had to occur for three vertebrae to be fractured. Experts likened the force needed for such damage as akin to the impact of an automobile accident.