Hogan sends 32 Maryland state troopers to Baltimore protests

Erin Cox
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun
Governor sending state troopers to help keep the peace during Baltimore's Freddie Gray protests.

Gov. Larry Hogan said Thursday he will send Maryland State Police troopers to Baltimore City as protests intensify over Freddie Gray's death while in police custody. 

"There's raw emotions. People legitimately have concerns, and the community is out in force protesting," Hogan said. "I want to thank the folks involved in that. So far it has been peaceful. We want to try to keep things under control. The last thing we need is more violence in Baltimore City." 

Hogan said city police will remain on the front lines as the demonstrations, which began Saturday and have been mostly peaceful, continue in city streets. The governor said the city has asked for help, and that he would continue to grant it whenever asked. "We don't want to interfere," he said.

Thirty-two troopers with expertise in crowd control arrived in Baltimore early Thursday afternoon, Maryland State Police spokesman Sgt. Marc Black said. The team will be in place for help whenever the Baltimore City Police department asks, he said.

The move comes after several hundred protesters gathered in front of a Western District police station Wednesday on the third straight day of demonstrations, this time tossing bottles at officers and chanting "What happened to Freddie Gray?" "They murdered him!"

Gray, 25, died Sunday from spinal cord injuries he received while under arrest a week earlier, but the circumstances around how it happened remain murky.

Gray was chased and apprehended by police in a West Baltimore neighborhood April 12 after he made eye contact with an officer on a bike and ran away.  He was conscious when put into a police van but unconscious when he arrived at a precinct 30 minutes later. 

Video of Gray's arrest made public so far shows him screaming while being detained on the ground, but does not make clear how he was injured.  Gray's death while in police custody reignited simmering tensions about allegations of police brutality and drew Baltimore into the national spotlight in the discussion about police treatment of black men.

Hogan, speaking to the Maryland, Delaware and D.C. Press Association in Annapolis, promised to sign a recently passed bill that would enable all Maryland police departments to outfit officers with body cameras that record audio and video. The law would create an exception to the state's wiretapping law that requires two-party consent for any audio to be recorded.

Hogan called that bill "one small step" in solving what is a nationwide problem of police and community relations.

"We're getting bits and pieces of information from bystanders that may or may not show the whole story, so we don't know what happened before the incident or after the incident that we have on tape," Hogan said. "Having the real evidence of of exactly what happened, having everything videotaped, is a step in the right direction."

The governor also said Thursday his comments last fall in the wake of a Ferguson, Mo.'s decision not to indict the officer in the death of unarmed teenager were "a poor choice of words." 

At the time, newly elected Hogan said the choice "really doesn't impact Maryland," sparking concern from police accountability advocates. Hogan said that he did 

"There's a lot of issues here that have to be addressed," Hogan said. "This is a major issue that we're going to continue to have problems with until we get to the bottom of it."

Aides to Hogan said that the state police will play a secondary, support role in Baltimore as the city police handle ongoing protests. 

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