Freddie Gray, a Baltimore man injured during an arrest by Baltimore police last week, died Sunday at Shock Trauma, prompting protests by city residents and out-of-town activists and promises from city officials for a thorough investigation.
Gray, 25, died a week after he suffered a broken vertabra after being arrested near Gilmor Homes in Sandtown-Winchester.
Police have not given a cause for Gray's injuries or specified why he was arrested, citing an investigation into the incident. Officials are expected to look into any criminal conduct by Gray and whether criminal charges against officers are warranted.
As a family attorney raised questions about the circumstances surrounding Gray's death, his stepfather, Richard Shipley, said relatives were too distraught to talk.
"He's gone," Shipley said. "What else is there to say?"
A Shock Trauma spokeswoman confirmed Gray's death but provided no further details.
At a news conference, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts said they are committed to providing the public with information about the circumstances of Gray's death.
"I understand the frustration of the community and I take very seriously my obligation of transparency," Rawlings-Blake said. "However we also have to balance that with our obligation to ensure a proper and thorough investigation is undertaken. Therefore we have to move forward in a responsible way to determine all the facts of this incident so that we can provide the community with answers."
More than 100 protesters have gathered for two days outside the Western District station, demanding answers about what happened to Gray.
The Rev. Jamal Bryant of the Empowerment Temple led Saturday night's demonstration, and members of the People's Power Movement and a New York City-based activist group converged on North Mount Street outside the station after Gray's death was announced Sunday.
William "Billy" Murphy Jr., a lawyer for Gray's family, contradicted a Police Department timeline of the arrest, which said medics were called to the Western District station 30 minutes after the police van carrying Gray left the scene. Murphy said he has information indicating Gray was at the police station for an hour before medics were called.
"What we know is that while in police custody for committing no crime — for which they had no justification for making the arrest except he was a black man running — his spine was virtually severed, 80 percent severed, in the neck area," Murphy said. He called Gray's injuries "catastrophic."
Murphy said Gray "lapsed into a coma, died, was resuscitated, stayed in a coma and on Monday, underwent extensive surgery at Shock Trauma. "He clung to life for seven days," he said.
The attorney also said that the city has a camera above where the arrest occurred and requested that the footage be released to the public.
"We believe the police are keeping the circumstances of Freddie's death secret until they develop a version of events that will absolve them of all responsibility," Murphy said. "However, his family and the citizens of Baltimore deserve to know the real truth; and we will not stop until we get justice for Freddie."
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.
According to the police timeline, he was conscious and speaking when he was loaded into a van to be taken to the district station. Medics were called to the station, and he was taken to an area hospital, police said.
Deputy Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez said police have interviewed community members and some officers involved in the incident. He declined to provide more details, citing the need to make sure the investigation is not compromised.
Explanation of what prompted the arrest, remains "a bit vague," according to Rodriguez. He said that officers in a high-crime area with drug problems suspected Gray was "immediately involved or had been recently involved in criminal activity."
Rodriguez said police "have no physical, video or any other evidence of an altercation" that would result in Gray's injuries.
"The question is how and why, and more importantly if there is anything contributory from our agency, how can we prevent that?" he said. "We're not there yet but we will get there."
Police are assembling a task force to review the incident, expected to include personnel across a range of departments, including training and lab prep personnel, as well as teams from homicide investigators and force investigation, Batts said.
An independent board also will review the administrative case against the officers, after State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby decides whether or not to file criminal charges and that case concludes. A spokeswoman for Mosby could not be reached Sunday.
Rawlings-Blake spokesman Kevin Harris said he does not know yet who will serve on the independent review board, which officials referred to as a "blue-ribbon" panel.
Officers involved have been placed on administrative leave as a matter of department policy.
In a statement posted to Twitter, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 3, Baltimore's police union, asked for "no rush to judgment until the investigation is complete and all the facts are known."
"We thank Mayor Rawlings-Blake and Commissioner Batts for their leadership and welcome a thorough and complete investigation into the death of Mr. Gray, as we also agree that all lives matter," the union said.
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Gray's family has declined to meet with police so far, Batts said. Police intend to try again this week.
"I extend my deepest sympathies to his family. I have no words to offer that will ease the pain that has resulted," Batts said.
"All lives matter," he added, in a nod to the "Black Lives Matter" mantra shouted at protests across the country in response to recent police brutality incidents.
The U.S. Department of Justice is conducting a separate review of complaints about Baltimore's Police Department at Batts' request. That request followed a Baltimore Sun investigation that found taxpayers had paid nearly $6 million since 2011 to settle more than 100 lawsuits alleging police brutality and other misconduct.
Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this story.