Baltimore police filed official documents in court saying that a man who died after his spine was nearly severed while in their custody had been arrested “without force or incident.”
The officers asked that 25-year-old Freddie Gray be charged with carrying a switchblade, punishable by a year in prison and a $500 fine, according to the court records, which were obtained Monday by The Associated Press. At the time they filed these records, Gray was already hospitalized with the injuries that would lead to his death a week later.
Police don’t explain those injuries the court documents obtained by the AP. One of the records says that while being taken to the station in a van, “the defendant suffered a medical emergency and was immediately transported to Shock Trauma via medic.”
That appears to contradict the official police timeline, which says that nearly 45 minutes after his arrest, an ambulance was called to pick him up at the police station. By then, he was in critical condition. He died on Sunday, after a weeklong coma, at a University of Maryland trauma center.
The documents also misspell Gray’s name as “Grey.” Their details were first reported Monday by The Baltimore Sun. Police had not previously mentioned a knife, or publicly disclosed the charge against Gray.
Officer Garrett Miller’s signed report says Gray was stopped after a brief foot chase because he “fled unprovoked upon noticing police presence,” and that arresting officers found the knife in his pocket.
Billy Murphy, an attorney for Gray’s family, said Sunday that “his spine was 80 percent severed at his neck” while in police custody. He disputed the initial police timeline, alleging that Gray was in custody for longer than they said.
“We have no confidence that the city or the police department is going to fairly and objectively investigate this case,” Murphy added. “We have no confidence the investigation will reveal the truth.”
Activists protesting excessive use of force by police and even Baltimore city officials say they have more questions than answers about what happened to Gray, who was stopped April 12 by a group of officers on bike patrol.
About 50 people marched from City Hall to police headquarters Monday, carrying signs reading “Black lives matter” and “Jobs, not police killings.” They unfurled a yellow banner reading “Stop police terror.”
“This is just one of the most egregious cases I’ve ever seen,” said Colleen Davidson of the Baltimore People’s Power Assembly, which she said organized the rally at the request of Gray’s family. “We felt the need to be out here and make it known that we will not stand and watch things like this happen.”
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and top police officials promised accountability and transparency Sunday at a news conference at City Hall.
“How was Mr. Gray injured? Were the proper protocols and procedures actually followed? What are the next steps to take from here?” the mayor asked.
She promised a thorough investigation and “real answers,” and said she will make sure to hold “the right people accountable.”
Gray’s family has declined, so far, to interact with police, said Police Commissioner Anthony Batts. He said the department would try again this week to share information with them, and that he’s assembling a “hybrid task force” that will include homicide investigators to investigate.
Officers and other witnesses have been interviewed, according to Deputy Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez, but he said officers who are subjects of the criminal investigation have a right not to potentially incriminate themselves.
Police have yet to release any video of the arrest, despite requests by Murphy and by the AP for these public records.
“We want to see a fair response and an impartial investigation, not cops investigating themselves,” the family’s lawyer said Sunday.
Murphy also said he has interviewed 11 witnesses so far. State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby asked Monday that anyone with information contact her office.
“I can assure the public that my office has dedicated all its existing resources to independently investigate this matter to determine whether criminal charges will be brought,” Mosby said.
Baltimore’s police department volunteered last year for a Justice Department review of its policies and procedures.
Outside of the Western District station house, where the police timeline said Gray was brought after his arrest, Cortly “C.D.” Witherspoon, president of the Baltimore chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, called the city a “police state” where criminalization of African-American men is pervasive.
“They want the citizenry to be patient. They want the citizenry to let the investigation play out,” Witherspoon said. “We can’t do that. There has never been honest and genuine conversation with the police department and the people on the ground. We want an independent investigation. We want the officers fired, we want them stripped of their pension and we want them charged.”