The investigation into the death of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old arrested by Baltimore Police on April 12 and who subsequently died from injuries received either during or after his arrest, has revealed details that in no way shines a positive light on the arresting and attending officers in the case. At a press conference Monday, Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts admitted there were many occasions during the arrest and transport of Gray where a medic should have been called for assistance and treatment. On Tuesday, six officers involved in the man’s arrest were identified, having been suspended pending an investigation into the matter.
The New York Times reported April 21 that the Baltimore Police Department identified and suspended six officers involved in the arrest and transport of Freddie Gray. Batts, promising a transparent investigation, said that the findings would be turned over to the District Attorney’s office by the first of May for a determination of whether or not to file charges.
At present, police investigators say they still do not understand precisely how, nor do they know exactly when, Gray was injured. Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has openly indicated that the injuries to Gray probably occurred after he was placed in the police van for transport to the police station.
The Baltimore Sun reported that court documents filed by police show that at the time of Gray’s arrest, he was taken into custody “without force or incident.” The reason for his arrest, something which police had been exceedingly vague about since the arrest and death, was revealed to be due to the alleged possession of a switchblade knife. However, none of the documents could explain just how Gray’s injuries in an arrest the proceeded “without force or incident” produced a suspect in need of medical treatment, who would later be found to have a nearly severed spine, three fractured vertebra, a crushed larynx, and who would slip into a coma die after surgery for said injuries.
District Court papers revealed a report filed by officer Garrett Miller, who said Gray “fled unprovoked upon noticing police presence.” Once he was stopped, police found a knife clipped inside his front pants pocket, for which he was then arrested.
“The defendant was arrested without force or incident,” Miller went on. “During transport to Western District via wagon transport the defendant suffered a medical emergency and was immediately transported to Shock Trauma via medic.”
However, there appears to be a bit of a time discrepancy between the “immediately” of the police report and actual events. According to a timeline compiled by the Baltimore Sun, initial contact with Gray by bicycle officers occurred at 8:39 a.m. on April 12. He was chased and arrested at 8:40 p.m. He was placed in a police van at 8:42 and the van was stopped at 8:46, because, according to the van driver, Gray was irate and leg irons were placed on him. (According to the Sun, witnesses say they saw Gray beaten, but police claim otherwise.) By 8:59, a second unit is asked to check on Gray and the police van is requested to pick up another suspect. At 9:24, paramedics were requested and Gray was subsequently transported to the hospital.
At the hospital, according to an earlier report, Gray, who was suffering from a crushed larynx and fractured vertebra (the Gray family’s attorney would later say the young man’s spine was 80 percent severed), would slip into a coma and die. He would be revived, only to enter a coma again. In the meantime, he underwent emergency surgery for his injuries. But the 25-year-old would never emerge from the coma, dying seven days later on April 19.
So what happened? How did a man arrested without incident, who may or may not have been injured in his initial arrest, progress from a suspect at least somewhat ambulatory to one with life-threatening injuries? Police say a video of the arrest only shows a portion of it and no footage shows anything untoward. There was no video in the police transport. The second suspect transported was separated from Freddie Gray by a metal wall.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Batts stated Monday that the department was reviewing its current policies relating to prisoner transports and when and if officers should call medics for suspects in custody. He then admitted that medics should have been called several times during the Gray episode.