Gray suffered head injury in prisoner van, sources familiar with investigation say

Baltimore police have found that Freddie Gray suffered a serious head injury inside a prisoner transport wagon, with one wound indicating that he struck a protruding bolt in the back of the vehicle, according to sources familiar with the probe.

New details of the investigation emerged as police officially turned over the case to city prosecutors Thursday. Police said they have "exhausted every lead."


In announcing an early conclusion to the first phase of their investigation, police also revealed a previously unknown stop by the transport van driver. Officials declined to comment further on what happened but said they had obtained private security footage depicting that event.

While witnesses have said that police officers roughly handled Gray, who died a week after his arrest from injuries including a severed spine, police have said a focus of their investigation has been what occurred in the van.


Police also have acknowledged that officers violated protocol by not buckling in Gray and providing medical help when he asked for it.

The van made several stops before arriving at the Western District police station, where Gray was found unresponsive and taken to the hospital. At one stop, the van picked up another prisoner, who was taken to the station on the other side of a metal partition.

The prisoner originally told police that Gray was thrashing about but later recanted part of his account that it sounded like he was trying to hurt himself, according to sources familiar with the investigation.

"I heard a little banging like he was banging his head," Donta Allen, the second prisoner, told The Baltimore Sun's media partner WJZ-TV on Thursday.


Gray's death has unleashed a maelstrom of unrest, with protests in Baltimore and around the nation, putting pressure on city and police officials to explain what happened.

Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts noted that the investigation's first phase wrapped up a day before his self-imposed deadline of May 1, which he said demonstrated the agency's sense of urgency around the case.

"I understand the frustration, I understand the sense of urgency, and so has the organization, and that is why we finished a day ahead of time," Batts said. "I also know that getting to the right answer is more important than speed."

Police did not make all of its investigative findings public.

State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby will ultimately determine whether to bring charges against any of the six officers involved in Gray's arrest, and she has not set a timetable for that decision. The officers have been suspended with pay.

In a statement, Mosby confirmed that she had received the police investigative file but stressed that her investigation is independent. Gray's family and their lawyers were seen leaving the state's attorney's office Thursday evening.

"While we have and will continue to leverage the information received by the department, we are not relying solely on their findings but rather the facts that we have gathered and verified," Mosby said. "We ask for the public to remain patient and peaceful and to trust the process of the justice system."

Gray died April 19, a week after being arrested in West Baltimore. He suffered a spinal cord injury and crushed voicebox and had lapsed into a coma.

Maryland's chief medical examiner, Dr. David R. Fowler, said his office has not completed an autopsy or turned any documents over to police or prosecutors. He said homicide detectives had observed the examination, a routine practice.

"Our first report will be final, and will go directly to the state's attorney's office," Fowler said. He said his office was conducting one of its last examinations and anticipated results would be available "shortly."

Investigative files include everything assembled by detectives — incident reports, crime lab reports, photos, witness interviews, the results of search warrants, and other items.

Video of the tail end of Gray's arrest shows him groaning and his feet dragging underneath him. A witness said officers pulled back his legs and had him folded up like "origami." Video taken by citizens of Gray's arrest shows him yelling and dragging his feet as officers carry him to the van.

But as protests erupted, police said they were focused on what happened inside the van and did not believe the catastrophic spinal injury occurred during his arrest. Police said earlier this month that a preliminary autopsy showed no indication that force was used.

Video taken by citizens of Gray's arrest shows him yelling and dragging his feet as officers carry him to the van.

Many residents and activists had been eyeing Friday as a day that findings of the police investigation might be released, but police and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake had worked the previous day to dispel those expectations.

"The family of Mr. Gray wants answers. I want answers. Our entire city deserves answers into Mr. Gray's death," Rawlings-Blake said Thursday. "I ask that everyone remain patient and vigilant on this path to justice."

The attorney for Gray's family, William "Billy" Murphy Jr., said family members did not expect details to be released to them this week and are willing to wait for a thorough investigation to be conducted.

"We want a correct investigation, an accurate investigation — not a rushed investigation," Murphy said told Sun columnist Dan Rodricks on WYPR 88.1 FM.

One new piece of information did emerge Thursday: Deputy Commissioner Kevin Davis said police determined that the police wagon transporting Gray made a previously unknown stop, at North Fremont Avenue and Mosher Street.

Investigators scoured that area for surveillance footage and found a private camera showing the van stopped in that area after picking up Gray, he said.

"That's new to us," Davis said.

He did not elaborate on what that tape shows or if it was relevant to the investigation.

Jung Hwang, 43, owner of CR Market on the corner, said that police came and collected footage from his surveillance system sometime last week, but that he had not watched it himself.

Rhonda Sneed, 64, who has lived across the street for 17 years, said she did not recall anything on the morning of April 12, but was not surprised the van had driven down her street at some point.

"The police vans, the ones who lock up people, they ride through here all the time," she said.

Police said that while they had turned over files to prosecutors, the department's investigation remains active and new leads would be followed as they arise.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland said a double standard remains for police officers who are under investigation.

"We join with the people of Baltimore who believe that justice for those who have been harmed at the hands of police has been all but nonexistent in our city and across our state, and that this failure has been a root cause of the lack of trust in police," Executive Director Susan Goering said in a statement.

"In the spirit of ending that double standard, we all need to know soon: what justice will prosecutors seek for Freddie Gray?"


Some activists have called for murder charges, and protests on Saturday and Monday were marred by violence and rioting.


With Baltimore police out in full force with officers from other jurisdictions and National Guard soldiers, department officials said 98 officers have been injured since Monday, including 43 who reported serious injuries. With the city's 10 p.m. curfew, police reported another 11 arrests for violations on Thursday.

Baltimore Sun reporters Catherine Rentz and Kevin Rector contributed to this article.

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