Baltimore police, in the clearest acknowledgement of failure yet, said that a black man who later died should have received medical attention at the spot where he was arrested — before he was put inside a police van.
Police officers missed “multiple” opportunities to give him medical attention and once inside the van, Freddie Gray should have been buckled into a seat belt.
The department’s acknowledgement on Friday came at a news conference after a week of intense scrutiny and near-daily demonstrations over what protesters say is police mistreatment of blacks in Baltimore, Maryland, and throughout the nation. A fierce national debate has been stoked by the deaths of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City.
Gray was taken into custody on April 12 and at some point — either during his arrest or inside the van — he suffered a mysterious spinal injury. Authorities have not explained how or when it occurred. Six police officers have been suspended with pay.
Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said it was possible Gray was injured before the van ride, but also possible he suffered in a “rough ride” — where officers hit the brakes and take sharp turns to injure suspects in the back of vans.
Gray was arrested after he made eye contact with officers and ran away, the police said. Officers held him down, handcuffed him and loaded him into a police van. While inside, he became irate and leg cuffs were put on him, the police said.
Gray was not buckled in, a violation of the police department’s policy.
Gray asked for medical help several times, and after a 30-minute ride that included three stops, paramedics were called.
“We know he was not buckled in the transportation wagon as he should have been. There’s no excuse for that, period,” Batts said. “We know our police employees failed to give him medical attention in a timely manner multiple times.”
Deputy Police Commissioner Kevin Davis on Friday said that Gray should have received medical attention at the spot of his arrest. Video footage taken by a bystander shows Gray screaming as officers carried him to the van, his legs appearing limp.
Batts said the investigation is being refined and the picture is getting “sharper and sharper,” but he did not elaborate.
As for some calls for his resignation, he said: “That’s not going to happen.”
Protesters promised their biggest march yesterday, when they would try to “shut down” the city.
The president of a black lawyers’ group predicted thousands of people would turn out, when good weather is forecast and the Baltimore Orioles host the Boston Red Sox in Major League Baseball action.
“Things will change on Saturday, and the struggle will be amplified,” Black Lawyers for Justice president and founder Malik Shabazz said.
Shabazz rejected the notion that he was an outside agitator who would stir up trouble.
The mayor thanked protesters for being peaceful so far and urged calm.
“I will not deny that here in Baltimore we have had a very long and complicated history on issues such as these, but it’s important to remember that we have an equally long history of peaceful and legal protest,” Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said.
Asked if Gray’s possible “rough ride” is a one-off, the mayor said: “It’s clearly not a one-off.”
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