Friday, May 01, 2015

Baltimore: Update on black death in police custody

Hundreds of protesters filled the front of Baltimore's City Hall on Thursday, again giving voice to frustration over the death of a young black man in police custody, as the department turned over its investigative findings to prosecutors.

Police Commissioner Anthony Batts declined to make the investigative results public while the state's attorney determines whether charges will be brought against any of the six suspended police officers involved in Freddie Gray's arrest. No timetable has been set for that decision.

The latest development comes amid a disputed allegation that a prisoner sharing a police van with Gray, who died of spinal injuries while in police custody, told officers that Gray appeared to be intentionally trying to injure himself, based on what he heard inside the van.

The death of Gray, 25, has sparked almost two weeks of protests that turned violent Monday, prompting the governor to call out the National Guard to stop rioters who burned and looted parts of the city.

The police findings turned over to prosecutors were the result of an investigation by 30 officers, and the case remains under active investigation, Batts said.

Meanwhile, WJLA-TV cited several law enforcement sources in reporting that the police investigation found no evidence that Gray's fatal injuries occurred during his arrest and interaction with police officers.

The Washington station reported that a medical examiner found that the fatal injury occurred when Gray slammed into the back of the van, apparently breaking his neck. WJLA's sources said a head injury he sustained matches a bolt in the back of the vehicle. Details of the purported injury were unclear, WJLA said.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said that after the prosecutor, State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby, completes her criminal review, an "internal disciplinary" police department process can begin. She said the U.S. Department of Justice is undertaking its own independent inquiry.

The State's Attorney's Office confirmed it had received the investigation file and said it contained no new information because prosecutors are conducting their own investigation and have been briefed regularly by police.

"While we have and will continue to leverage the information received by the Department, we are not relying solely on their findings but rather the facts that we have gathered and verified," Mosby said in a written statement.. "We ask for the public to remain patient and peaceful and to trust the process of the justice system."

Police officials said Thursday that 98 officers had reported injuries since the protests and clashes began. Of those, 43 required some kind of emergency treatment, 13 are out on medical leave, 15 have returned to light duty and 15 have returned to full duty after treatment.

The statement from the unidentified prisoner was contained in an application for a search warrant,The Washington Post reported Thursday. The warrant has been sealed by the court; the Post said it had obtained the documents under the condition that the prisoner not be named.

The newspaper noted that the prisoner, although sharing the police van, was separated from Gray by a metal partition and could not see him.

According to the document, the prisoner told investigators that Gray was "banging against walls" inside the vehicle and was "intentionally trying to injure himself."

WBAL-TV, however, reported that its investigation showed no evidence to support the second prisoner's claim.

Investigative reporter Jane Miller told MSNBC on Thursday that medical evidence from the hospital and an autopsy found that Gray died of a single severe spinal injury resulting from a broken neck.

Miller said the medical evidence does not support a claim that Gray had been banging his head against the van wall.

WBAL also reported that video footage shows that the second prisoner was only in the van for five minutes and that officers can be seen looking into the wide open van at the point where he was picked up.

"If there was an irate, disruptive prisoner banging his head, certainly it doesn't look in the video that they (the officers) are worried about that," Miller said.

The reporter also noted that the unidentified prisoner has a "number of years" hanging over his head and has given two different accounts of events that night.

In one new wrinkle in the case, Baltimore police told reporters Thursday without elaboration that their investigation found that transport van carrying made one more stop the night of his arrest than was previously known. Officials refused to speculate on the reason it was not known earlier, how unusual it was or whether it pointed to a possible coverup.

Original report here

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