(BALTIMORE) — Five of the six officers involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray, who died of an unexplained spinal injury seven days after he was apprehended, have been interviewed by officials, the Baltimore police union said Wednesday as protests continued in the city.
Gray died Sunday, after being hospitalized for seven days. A lawyer for the family said Gray was “chased” by police April 12 “without any evidence he had committed a crime.” Police have not clarified why Gray, 25, was arrested or how he suffered the injury that his family says occurred in police custody and resulted in his death a week later.
The union’s lawyer said Wednesday that Gray was not wearing a seat belt and that he likely suffered the severe spinal injury not during his arrest, but as he traveled in the van. The union says cellphone video that appeared to capture Gray screaming as officers dragged him to a police van did not explain the spinal injury.
“Our position is something happened inside that van,” said Michael E. Davey, an attorney for the union, who spoke during a news conference Wednesday alongside Lt. Kenneth Butler and Gene Ryan, the president of the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police. “We just don’t know what….We need to figure out what happened.”
Baltimore police said Gray was trying to flee from officers and was apprehended after a brief foot chase.
“I know that when Mr. Gray was placed inside that van, he was able to talk and he was upset,” Baltimore Deputy Police Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez said during a news conference Monday. “And when Mr. Gray was taken out of that van, he could not talk and he could not breathe.”
Davey, the union attorney, confirmed to ABC News that five officers involved in Gray’s arrest had given voluntary, recorded statements the night of the incident. The sixth officer elected, under his constitutional right, not to give a statement. The officer who chose not to give a statement was not the arresting officer.
Citizens continued to pour into the streets in protest Wednesday, nearly 1,000 demonstrating, so far peacefully. Tension between the Baltimore police and the black community is nothing new, according to the Baltimore Sun, which reported that in the past four years, nearly $6 million has been paid out to settle about 100 cases of police conduct.
The federal government is investigating Gray’s death but, since the winter, federal agents have been looking into the entire department at the request of Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
“We have been in the trenches doing this work,” she told ABC News. “I have a very serious concern about getting to the bottom of what happened with Mr. Gray.”
Davey confirmed that on Monday Police Commissioner Anthony Batts met with the group of all six officers involved after the news conference. Batts didn’t ask them any questions, but told them the investigation is ongoing and that it will be unbiased and independent.
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