BALTIMORE – (May 1, 2015) – The investigation into the death of Freddie Gray is now in the hands of the state attorney general for the city of Baltimore. But those seeking answers will be waiting for a while.
Unappeased, the protests will continue in Baltimore and elsewhere — especially since it’s May Day on Friday — the international day of protest for the rights of the working class.
Late Thursday, protests wound down peacefully in Baltimore as a 10 p.m. curfew took effect, but near a CVS store that had burned out in previous rioting, a body was found in a semi truck.
Police have not identified the body nor said whether the death had any connection to this weeks’ mayhem. An Illinois-based trucking company said that a driver hailing from Baltimore was reported missing by his family after visiting home. He did not appear back to work as scheduled on Wednesday.
In Philadelphia, Freddie Gray protesters clashed with police on Thursday, when officers tried to prevent protesters from blocking a highway.
The winding mystery
While Maryland’s attorney general’s office expects an autopsy report from the medical examiner’s office in the coming days, the mystery of how the 25-year-old died has grown more complex.
On Thursday, three new accounts surfaced on how and where he sustained the severe spine injury that lead to his death.
One indicated that it may have been during his apprehension on April 12; the other two reported that it may have occurred during the paddy wagon ride to the police station.
There, an ambulance was called, and Gray was taken to a hospital where he died a week later.
Also, police revealed the van had made an additional stop that was recorded by a privately owned video camera, arousing suspicion among protesters, who wondered why it was not previously mentioned.
Was it in the van?
Gray may have been mortally injured in the van, according to a report by CNN affiliate WJLA in Washington. The police investigation did not find he died from injuries caused during his arrest, the station reported, citing “multiple law enforcement sources briefed on the police findings.”
Gray slammed into part of the police van, which apparently broke his neck, the investigation found. A head injury matches up to a bolt in the van, the report said, which did not mention how the injury may have happened.
An official in the state’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner wouldn’t comment to CNN on the report, citing the ongoing investigation.
Police have said that Gray had not been properly fastened into the van.
Was it self-inflicted injury?
Gray may have inflicted the injuries upon himself, according to a second report, which cited a police account taken from an additional prisoner the paddy wagon picked up after Gray.
The prisoner told investigators he thought Gray “was intentionally trying to injure himself,” according to the Washington Post, citing a Baltimore police investigation document.
The prisoner said he could hear Gray “banging against the walls” of the van. But the prisoner was separated from Gray by a metal barrier and could not see him, according to police.
The account is similar to what Police Commissioner Anthony Batts told CNN affiliate WJZ-TV last week: That another suspect in the van heard Gray “thrashing about.”
Gray family attorney Jason Downs disputed the notion.
“Any suggestion that Mr. Gray harmed himself in the back of that van is something that Freddie Gray’s family strongly disagrees with,” he said. The family wants to see the medical examiner’s findings.
Was it during the arrest?
But the account of a woman related to one of the six officers involved in Gray’s arrest appeared to contradict the two media reports.
She said that the officer believes Gray was injured during his apprehension, although he does not know this for sure. She spoke to CNN on the condition of anonymity and said the officer didn’t ask her to give the interview.
She is worried all six officers who encountered Gray during his arrest will be incriminated and punished when only two or three might be responsible.
“Six officers did not injure this man,” she said. “Six officers didn’t put him in the hospital.”
Additional van stop
The announcement of the additional stop by the paddy wagon was treated almost as a footnote in the police news conference.
“This new stop was discovered from a privately owned camera,” Deputy Commissioner Kevin Davis said without elaborating.
It belonged to shop owner Hwang Jung, who said police copied the footage. The original was lost when his store was subsequently looted, he said.
The new stop, Davis said, came between the first and second stops. Before it surfaced, police had spoken of three stops — one to put leg irons on Gray, a second “to deal with Mr. Gray,” and a third to pick up an additional prisoner.
That second stop remains under investigation. The new stop came between the first and second stops, Davis said.
The revelation of the new stop and the seemingly conflicting new accounts have further stoked distrust among protesters, said the Rev. Jamal Bryant of Baltimore’s Empowerment Temple.
Young people have told the protest organizer and community leader in the past two days that they are “absolutely frustrated and their confidence level is absolutely shattered” and that Thursday’s news only exacerbated those feelings.
“They don’t believe that Mr. Gray was hurting himself in the van, and this additional stop lends credence to the suspicion that something is absolutely off track,” he said.
They are particularly suspicious of what police report about Gray’s arrest.
CNN legal analyst Mel Robbins was also suspicious of the new revelation of the additional stop.
“They found out about it after doing this investigation where they interviewed over 30 people,” she said. “So what that says to me is that if it’s going to take a closed-circuit, private camera to show the stop, that they were not getting that information from the police officers during the investigation.”
But Commissioner Batts told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that people are jumping to conclusions and no one is trying to cover anything up.
“I think it’s unfortunate that these little things are coming out. I think that it’s inappropriate,” he said.
It will be up to prosecutors to take the next step in bringing order to the confusion and attempt to restore protesters’ confidence.
Marilyn Mosby was elected the state’s attorney general for Baltimore City in January and will ultimately decide whether or not to charge officers in Gray’s death.
Police have handed their investigative files, but will continue to investigate, as new evidence comes in.
Mosby’s office said it would also conduct its own independent investigation. “We are not relying solely on their findings but rather the facts that we have gathered and verified,” prosecutor Mosby said.
“We ask for the public to remain patient and peaceful and to trust the process of the justice system,” she said.
That patience will be put to the test during new protests on Friday, which have already spread to other U.S. cities.
At least four rallies or marches are planned in Baltimore alone. The mother of Trayvon Martin, the African-American youth who was shot dead in 2012 by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in Florida, plans to attend, Bryant said in a tweet.
Demonstrations are also scheduled in Chicago, Oakland, New York City, Seattle, Dallas and San Francisco.