A prisoner who shared a ride to jail with Freddie Gray claims the 25-year-old was trying to injure himself inside a police van before he died from unexplained spinal chord injuries, according to a leaked police report.
The report was leaked to the Washington Post under the proviso that the prisoner remains anonymous – raising questions about its accuracy and the favorable light which it shines on the Baltimore police force
In the documents, the unidentified prisoner says he was loaded into a police van after Gray on April 12, and apparently told investigators that he heard Gray ‘banging against the walls’ and ‘intentionally trying to injure himself’.
However, he claims he could not see what Gray was doing, since they were separated by a metal partition. The statement was cited in a warrant to search an arresting officer’s clothing for possible traces of Gray’s DNA.
The Washington Post obtained the affidavit from a person who asked the prisoner, who remains jailed for violating a restraining order, not be identified for fears over their safety.
In the past week, Gray has become the new face of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, with many believing his death was caused by police during or after the arrest. His death has not only prompted demonstrations in Baltimore, but in several cities across the nation.
However, just how Gray sustained the life-ending injuries has remained unclear with both the Baltimore Police and Department of Justice revealing little of their respective on-going investigations.
The assertion that Gray may have caused his own death in the back of the police van was quickly refuted by an attorney hired by his family.
‘We disagree with any implication that Freddie Gray severed his own spinal cord,’ attorney Jason Downs told the Post. ‘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.’
And local reporters have also found inconsistencies with the leaked affidavit. According to WBAL reporter Jayne Miller, police originally said that the second prisoner in the van told investigators that Gray was ‘mostly quiet’.
Sources also told the station that by the time the second prisoner was in the van, Gray was unresponsive.
Cell phone footage captured the moment Gray was arrested by police near a housing project in west Baltimore on April 12.
Police say Gray fled when they tried to talk to him, and that after tackling him to the ground they found him carrying an illegal switchblade knife and took him into custody.
In the bystander video, two officers are seen pinning Gray to the concrete with their knees. When they pick him up to lead him to the van, Gray appears to struggle with walking and can be heard yelling out in pain.
The image of Gray being placed in the van is the last time he is seen before arriving at the hospital about an hour later with a partially severed spinal chord.
Police have so far denied causing Gray’s injuries, but have not explained how he became so severely injured in their custody.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts claims Gray had the capacity to walk since he is seen stepping into the police van in the bystander video.
About five minutes into the 30-minute ride, the police officer driving the vehicle pulled over to put Gray in leg irons. That officer described Gray as ‘irate’ and ‘continued to be combative in the police wagon’, Batts said.
After another five minutes, the officer made yet another stop, asking another cop to check on Gray. That officer found Gray on the floor because he had not been properly restrained with a seat belt -a violation of department policy.
During this stop, Gray asked for medical help due to his asthma and Batts said officers ignored Gray’s worries and continued on to pick up the other prisoner – the 38-year-old man quoted in the recently-released affidavit.
When the van arrived at the jail for booking 30 minutes after Gray’s arrest, he was found on the floor of the vehicle unconscious.
He was taken straight to the hospital, and died a week later due to a severed spinal chord.
The Baltimore Police Department is still conducting their investigation into Gray’s arrest. It was originally thought that the report would be released on Friday, when the department hands over their findings to the state attorney’s office. However, a police spokesman clarified that statement on Wednesday, saying they would be not be releasing anything to the public and the decision to do so would be up to prosecutors.
Six police officers involved in Gray’s arrest and transportation are currently suspended pending the investigation.
The report was released on the same day that a family member of one of the six officers involved in Gray’s arrest spoke out to defend their loved one on CNN.