Anger at lack of details over Gray death in police custody

Anger at lack of details over Gray death in police custody

The authorities have refused to provide more than a few sketchy details about the investigation into the death of a black man who suffered a fatal injury while in police custody in Baltimore in the US.

Nearly two weeks after Freddie Gray’s death, the public still does not know much more than it did on Day One.

The central question – what caused his fatal spinal cord injury – remains a mystery.

The death, which provoked riots earlier in the week, is just the latest case of an African-American man to die at the hands of police, which has triggered an intense debate about how US law enforcement treats minorities.`

Baltimore police have been less forthcoming than police in Ferguson, Missouri, after white officer Darren Wilson fatally shot a black man, 18-year-old Michael Brown, last year in an incident officially deemed self-defence.

For example, Baltimore police have not publicly revealed the suspended officers’ races or disciplinary histories.

Meanwhile, protests over Mr Gray’s death are spreading and continuing. Crowds gathered yesterday in Philadelphia and Baltimore, where a curfew went into effect for the third night without any major problems.

Other protests led to arrests in New York and elsewhere.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts refused to answer any questions yesterday.

He said his department’s report was delivered a day ahead of time to State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, and that from now on, any questions should go to her.

Ms Mosby also declined to talk, asking “for the public to remain patient and peaceful and to trust the process of the justice system”.

Beyond the slim chronology, authorities have refused to discuss evidence, such as the details of his handling to statements from any of the six suspended officers.

With rumours flying about how 25-year-old Mr Gray’s spine was “80% severed,” as his family’s lawyer Billy Murphy put it, police did release a new piece of information yesterday.

But it served mostly to raise more questions about how truthful the six suspended officers have been with investigators.

Deputy Commissioner Kevin Davis said investigators discovered a security camera recording showing the police van carrying Mr Gray had made a previously undisclosed, second stop, after the he was put in leg irons and before the van driver made a third stop and called for help to check on his condition.

The van then made a fourth stop, to pick up another passenger, before Mr Gray arrived at the police station with the fatal spinal-cord injury that left him unresponsive.

Police had said Mr Gray was obviously injured and asking for medical help when he was hoisted into the van on April 12, and unresponsive on arrival at the station. He died in a hospital after a week in a coma.

Then, last week, Mr Batts said the additional passenger who was picked up along the way had told investigators the driver did not speed, make sudden stops or “drive erratically” during the trip, and that Mr Gray was “was still moving around, that he was kicking and making noises” up until the van arrived at the police station.

Legal experts and the Gray family lawyers say secrecy is appropriate at this point in the probe, when it is still possible that some witnesses have not been questioned, or even found.

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