Thursday, April 30, 2015

Witness in police van says Freddie Gray was deliberately trying to injure himself in the van.


  WaPost: Freddie Gray Was Trying to Injure Self in Baltimore Police Van

Wednesday, 29 Apr 2015 10:25 PM
By Greg Richter
The prisoner, who was the only other prisoner in the van, was separated from Gray by a metal partition, but told investigators he could hear Gray "banging against the walls" and believed he was was intentionally trying to injure himself," an affidavit obtained by the Post read.

The Post agreed not to name the individual out of fear for his safety. Gray's death has sparked protests and rioting in the streets of Baltimore; the most violence was seen Monday night following Gray's funeral earlier in the day.
Jason Downs, an attorney for the Gray family, told the Post that the family has not been informed of the statement in the affidavit.

"We disagree with any implication that Freddie Gray severed his own spinal cord," he said. "We question the accuracy of the police reports we've seen thus far, including the police report that says Mr. Gray was arrested without force or incident."

Also on Wednesday, CNN reported that a friend of one of the police officers who arrested Gray said that the suspect was not shackled or restrained in the van because officers were not able to bring him under control. The officers were afraid that Gray would attack or bite them so they kept their distance once he was in the van.

Gray had been arrested on April 12 after fleeing from police in a high-crime area and was carrying a switchblade knife. He died a week later.

CNN's source, who spoke with his identity hidden, said that it was common practice not to buckle prisoners into their seats. The Post account also seems to support this. One contention of Gray's supporters is that he may have been given an intentional "rough ride" by police to beat him up by throwing him around in the van.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts has said officers violated policy by failing to properly restrain Gray. But the president of the Baltimore police union told the Post that the seat belt policy took effect April 3 and was emailed to officers as part of a package of five policy changes on April 9, just three days before Gray was arrested.

Gene Ryan, the police union president, told the Post that many officers aren't reading the new policies because they think they're the same rules they already know.

The previous policy was written in 1997, when the department used smaller, boxier wagons that officers called "ice cream trucks." They originally had a metal bar that prisoners had to hold onto during the ride. Seat belts were added later, but the policy left their use discretionary.

Police said on Wednesday that the new information would be turned over to the state's attorney's office and could not be made public because prosecutors still have to decide whether to bring charges. Also still unknown is what drugs, if any, were in Gray's system.

The U.S. Department of Justice is conducting a separate probe into possible civil rights violations in Gray's death.

With police and National Guard troops patrolling Baltimore's streets on Wednesday, schools reopened and business resumed.

Baltimore's Major League Baseball team, the Orioles, played the Chicago White Sox in an empty stadium, a sign of the tenuous security situation.

Police have arrested close to 270 people since Monday, 18 of them on Wednesday. Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said more than 100 people had been released without being charged because officials could not keep up with the paperwork, but he said charges would be brought later.

Numerous stores were looted on Monday and 20 officers were hurt by rioters throwing stones and bricks.

The violence in Baltimore prompted national figures, from the new U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, to weigh in and vow to work on improving law enforcement and criminal justice in minority communities nationwide.

Lynch, sworn in as attorney general on Monday, called Baltimore's riots "senseless acts of violence" that are counterproductive to the ultimate goal of "developing a respectful conversation within the Baltimore community and across the nation about the way our law enforcement officers interact" with residents.

The Baltimore neighborhood that saw the worst of the violence was already filled with many burned-out buildings and vacant lots that had not been rebuilt since the 1968 riots that followed the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

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