Authorities in Baltimore suspended six police officers Monday after an inquiry revealed a 25-year-old man who died in custody sustained a severed spinal cord injury after his arrest.
Freddie Gray died Sunday, a week after he was chased and tackled by police officers. At a news conference to announce the department would change police procedure as they investigate Gray’s death, Deputy Police Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez described the spinal cord injury as “very tragic,” citing preliminary autopsy results that point to the injury as the cause of death.
A video of Gray’s arrest was shown at the conference, although it did not reveal how he received the spinal injury. Rodriguez insisted the department has “no evidence — physical, video or statements — of any use of force.”
— Sean Welsh (@SeanJWelsh) April 20, 2015
According to the Washington Post:
“What we don’t know, and what we need to get to, is how that injury occurred,” Rodriguez said. He noted that “when Mr. Gray was put in that van, he could talk, he was upset, and when he was taken out of that van, he could not talk and he could not breathe.”
The video does capture Gray being hauled off into a transport van after his arrest. Gray’s encounter with police began April 12 when three police officers approached him, the Post reports.
Rodriguez, the deputy commissioner, said the officers suspected Gray was “immediately involved or had been recently involved in criminal activity.” Once caught, Gray “gave up without the use of force,” Rodriguez said.
While the video does not show police acting forcefully and an autopsy shows no other wounds, except for the severed spinal cord, a witness told WBAL-TV that Gray was handcuffed in a “crab-like position.” According to the New York Times, Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts agreed that officers failed to realize Gray needed medical attention before he was put in the van.
The 25-year-old reportedly asked for his inhaler during the arrest. According to court documents, officers found a knife in his right pants pocket.
“We should have probably asked for paramedics” sooner, the commissioner said. He added that his department had already begun changing policies governing the transport of suspects, and the care of people who require medical attention while in police custody.
As protests continue calling for justice in Gray’s name, authorities have launched a criminal investigation. The income of the six officers suspended is pending based on the outcome of the investigation.