Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Baltimore cop who arrested black 27-year-old who died in police custody of 'severed spine' is identified

Baltimore police who said a 25-year-old they arrested was taken into custody 'without incident' are facing questions about what happened to lead to his death from a severed spine.

Freddie Gray died Sunday after he 'had his spine 80 per cent severed at his neck' following his arrest by three bicycle officers for violation that's been kept 'secret' until today.

Official police documents filed Monday said that the man was arrested by Officer Garrett Miller for having a switchblade knife after being stopped because he 'fled unprovoked after noticing police presence'.

Gray, who was screaming in pain as he was taken to a police van, then lapsed into a coma and was taken to a University or Maryland trauma center where he struggled to stay alive for seven days before his death.

Police still have no answers about exactly what happened that led to the neck injury though Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said, 'Whatever happened happened in the back of the van'.

Six officers have been suspended, but investigators say they still don’t know how it happened.

The mayor had vowed in the aftermath of the death to ensure the city held 'the right people accountable' after his early-morning death at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

She expressed frustration on Monday as authorities could not figure out the exact circumstances that led to Gray's neck injury and said that the description of events given in a police report may not have shown probable cause in his arrest.

'When Mr. Gray was put in that van, he could talk, he was upset. And he was taken out of that van, he could not talk and he could not breathe,' Rodriguez said

The recent disclosure marks the first time authorities have given a reason for Gray's interaction with police.

Though his arrest was for the switchblade, officers said that his arrest in a 'hot spot' area of Baltimore known for narcotics was because he was running away after seeing police.

Rodriguez said Monday that the police involved believed that the 27-year-old was committing or had just committed a crime when they chased and subdued him.

The switchblade knife was found in his front right pants pocket, according to documents obtained by the Baltimore Sun. The knife was punishable by a year in prison and a $500 fine.

A timeline released by police said Gray was taken by a prisoner transport van from the 'crime' scene to the Western District station shortly before 9am.

He asked for his asthmatic inhaler while he was being arrested, and requested medical assistance at another unknown point in time, according to Rodriguez.

An officer pulled out his Taser for use during the incident, but an autopsy that came back Monday showed no Taser marks.

While he was in the van, Gray, who is 5'8'' and 145 pounds, was put in leg restraints after become 'irate'.

Thirty minutes after he was arrested, an ambulance was called to the police station to take Gray to the hospital after he had a 'medical emergency, according toNBC Baltimore.

The van made multiple stops, including stopping to pick up another suspect that could hear but not see gray because of a partition in the vehicle.

Gray suffered a broken vertebra and an injured voice box, according to his family.

Civilian video showed him being loaded into the van, but did not show the entire encounter.

During the video, a woman said: 'That boy's legs look broke.'

Attorneys said that he suffered three broken bones, according to CBS Baltimore.

However, the autopsy report said that Gray had no physical injuries beyond his spine. It concluded that no force was used, a claim echoed by officers.

An attorney retained by Gray's family, William 'Billy' Murphy, spoke out on Sunday and described the circumstances leading up to the young man's death, saying that police chased the man ;without any evidence he had committed a crime.'

'His take-down and arrest without probable cause occurred under a police video camera, which taped everything including the police dragging and throwing Freddie into a police vehicle while he screamed in pain.

Murphy also took issue with the police's previous silence about the issue for Gray's arrest. 'We believe the police are keeping the circumstances of Freddie's death secret until they develop a version of events that will absolve them of all responsibility.

The incident comes as relations between police and black communities have taken on new levels of tension following several incidents of alleged police brutality that received national headlines.

About 50 people marched from City Hall to police headquarters Monday, carrying signs reading 'Black lives matter" and 'Jobs, not police killings.' They unfurled a yellow banner reading 'Stop police terror.'

The police, an independent review board and the Baltimore prosecutor's office will investigate the case.

Rodriguez said that homicide investigators and the police training academy will be included in the task force that gives a report to the state attorney general's office by Friday, May 1.

He said that the investigation is particularly interested in deciding whether police waited to late to call paramedics and whether an officer placed a knee on Gray's back during the arrest.

Monday's press conference included CCTV footage of part of the incident, though it does not show the fatal spine injury.

Mayor Rawlings-Blake said that whatever injury occurred to Gray must have happened in the van, where cameras that allowed the driver to see the back of the vehicle do not record the footage.

Commissioner Batts, who has been a proponent of body cameras, said that he was looking into changing the cameras so they would record.

She said that she was 'frustrated' by Gray's death and the lack of immediate answers and said that the police department had been working to 'overcome decades of mistrust'.

The mayor added that the information about Gray running in the police report does not necessarily represent probable cause for an arrest and that authorities will 'provide the community with all the answers it deserves'.

The commissioners announced immediate changes to arrest policies on Monday, including immediately giving medical attention to suspects who ask for it.

Original report here

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