Hundreds at Baltimore police station protest over man's injuries during arrest

Baltimore police investigating officer-involved shooting

Hundreds of people raised their hands and turned their backs on officers outside the Baltimore Police Department's Western District station Saturday evening, part of a protest over injuries a man suffered while being arrested earlier in the week.

Just as the protest was wrapping up, an officer about a mile away shot a man who police said fled a traffic stop. Police said the suspect was armed with a loaded handgun, and praised the officer's actions.

The incidents continued a tense week that saw residents venting frustrations about the Police Department in a hearing called by the U.S. Department of Justice, which is conducting a review of the agency at Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts' request. A series of police-involved deaths across the country have sparked demonstrations and prompted calls for reform.

At the Western District, residents were upset about injuries to Freddie Gray, 27, who remains in a coma after being injured during an arrest. Police have released few details about the incident, and protesters said that has deepened their frustrations.

Four bicycle officers tried to stop Gray about 9 a.m. on April 12 in the 1600 block of W. North Ave. for an alleged violation that police have not disclosed. He ran, police said, and the officers caught him and restrained him on the ground while awaiting backup.

It's unclear how Gray was injured. According to a police timeline, he was fine when he was loaded into a van to be taken to the district station, but was injured by the time he got out. He suffered a broken vertebra and an injured voice box, his family said.

"What happened to Freddie was unnecessary and uncalled for," the Rev. Jamal Harrison Bryant of the Empowerment Temple boomed to protesters who marched from Gilmor Homes to the police station. "All of those police officers involved need to be held accountable and answer for what they did, and need to be terminated from their positions."

Deputy Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez released no additional information Saturday but said police have commissioned a "blue-ribbon" panel to review the case once the investigation has been handed over to prosecutors.

Police blocked off streets for the protesters and set up barricades around the station. The protesters' chants included, "No justice, no peace, we don't need you on our streets."

The first marchers to arrive quickly breached the barricades, leaping onto a brick wall just feet from a line of officers and waving signs. But they pulled back as the formal rally began.

"If this happens to him, it could happen to any of you," Gray's stepfather, Richard Shipley, told the crowd.

Gray was well-known in the neighborhood, residents said. His nickname was "Pepper."

"They didn't have to do that to him," said Crystal Cooley, 30, a longtime friend who said he witnessed the incident. "They already had him in handcuffs."

Kia Lane, 34, said that since the incident, police have been driving around the neighborhood but not stopping. She added that when people see officers, they put their hands up in the "Don't Shoot" pose popularized by protests in Ferguson, Mo., and other incidents.

"They haven't said one word since it happened. Why?" said Chandra Jackson, 36.

As Jackson spoke, word of the police-involved shooting crackled across the police radio, and officers sped from Gilmor Homes to the 2700 block of Baker St.

Rodriguez said marked patrol officers from the Southwestern District had attempted to pull over a car for an undisclosed traffic violation, but the driver refused to stop. There were three people inside, and one jumped out of the car and attempted to run away.

The man was chased through a school field with a playground, and at the bottom of a hill pulled out a handgun, Rodriguez said. He was shot multiple times, and taken to a local hospital, where he was listed in stable condition.

The vehicle was able to get away, and police were searching for the other two suspects. The vehicle was described as a 2009 black Honda, with license plate 4BM7365.

No officers were injured.

Several members of the agency's tactical team were at the scene in full gear, as well as more than a dozen members of the Baltimore sheriff's office. Maj. Sam Cogen of the sheriff's office said deputies were helping police patrol high-crime areas.

Rodriguez said the officers involved in the incident were in "great danger," and it showed that police are deploying resources in the right places to target "people with no regard for law enforcement."

The incident was the fourth police-involved shooting in 2015, compared with five at this time last year.

jfenton@baltsun.com

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