A cell phone video shot April 12 at Baker and Mount streets shows officers putting Freddie Gray in leg shackles and flexi-cuffs before putting him back in the van, head first and on his stomach. (Baltimore Sun)
On the morning of April 12, Michelle Gross woke up to screaming. Gross, known as "Mom" in West Baltimore's Gilmor Homes area, left her home and saw Freddie Gray — someone she called "son" — being dragged into a police van.
As police drove away with Gray, she gave her phone to a neighbor who wanted to call 911 and report the incident. But soon, Gross and the neighbor were headed to the corner of Mount and Baker streets, where the van had stopped.
There, the neighbor shot cellphone video that provides a close look at Gray and police actions that have been criticized by Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby. That video, combined with the account of Gross and her neighbor, provide the most detailed public account of the van stop — a key moment in Gray's fatal encounter with police.
The video shows Gray halfway out of the van, his stomach flat on the floor and his legs hanging off the back. He does not move as four officers stand over him and place shackles around his ankles.
In her first interview about the incident, Gross, 58, said she was shocked at the turn of events that led to Gray's death from a spinal injury. "I thought his leg was just broke and that he was just going to the police station and we would hear him that afternoon," she said recently, as tears streamed down her cheeks.
Most of the video of Gray was taken of the arrest at Mount and Presbury Streets. Less is known about what happened a block away, when the van stopped at Baker Street and he was shackled.
That was a key moment, according to Mosby. Charging documents filed against six officers involved in Gray's arrest and transport state: "Following transport from Baker Street, Mr. Gray suffered a severe and critical neck injury as a result of being handcuffed, shackled by his feet and unrestrained inside of the [Baltimore Police Department] wagon."
Mosby also said officers violated department policy by not securing Gray with a seat belt and not providing medical care when he requested it. Charging documents state that officers placed Gray in the van head first and on his stomach before transporting him around West Baltimore.
According to Mosby, Lt. Brian Rice directed the police van to stop at Mount and Baker.
Police said Gray was acting "irate." Rice and two other officers took him out of the van and placed flex-cuffs on his wrists and metal shackles on his ankles.
Cellphone video and surveillance footage reviewed by The Baltimore Sun shed more light on what took place during the stop.
Video from city surveillance camera No. 2108, mounted on top of Gilmore House, recorded part of the scene. That was one of 16 surveillance videos relating to the arrest and van trip that the Baltimore Police Department released in April.
For weeks, video from camera No. 2108 remained off the Police Department's YouTube site, and department officials did not respond to questions about why it was not online with the 15 other camera videos. On Wednesday, after The Sun posted video from that camera, Lt. Sarah Connolly said in a statement that a technical glitch kept it from uploading to YouTube. She added that the department is working on uploading it.
According to that surveillance video, at 8:46 a.m., the van carrying Gray rounded the corner from Presbury and headed south on Mount. A minute later, the van is seen parked just north of Baker. However, Gray is not visible at the back of the van.
The video shot by Gross' neighbor is distorted and shows just a few seconds at the back of the van. As officers restrain Gray, the video shows another officer pull up in a patrol car, get out and walk toward the van. (The neighbor did not allow his name to be published because he feared retaliation by police, but Gross allowed The Sun to copy the video from her phone.)
At this point on the cellphone video, Gross yells to Gray, "You all right?" No response is detectable from the recording and Gross said she didn't hear Gray respond. Her neighbor yells, "Porter, can we get a supervisor up here please?" He said he was yelling at Officer William Porter, who would be one of the six charged in the case.
The neighbor said Porter motioned to Rice, identifying him as the supervisor. On the video, the neighbor says, "Can we get someone else out here? This is not cool. This is not cool. Do you hear me?" The man's shouts are heard on the phone, but not the officers' responses.
The man said that Rice and other officers moved toward him, blocking his view of the van. They didn't ask him to stop recording, but Rice took out his Taser and threatened to use it if he didn't leave, the man said.
Gross is then heard telling her neighbor, "Let's walk away." After that, both of them left.
Surveillance video confirms at least some of that account; it shows three officers moving toward the neighbor, standing between him and the van. Soon, the neighbor is gone from the camera's view.
Baltimore police officials did not respond to repeated inquiries about whether they have seen the cellphone footage or about allegations of threats against the man. A spokesperson said the department is directing all questions relating to the case to the state's attorney's office; it had no comment.
Calls and emails to Rice's lawyers were not returned.
Charles "Joe" Key, a former Baltimore police lieutenant who now consults on use-of-force cases, said ankle shackles are used to further restrain individuals so they can't run away or kick an interior window of a transport van. He said a suspect should be able to walk with the shackles on.
Joseph L. Giacalone, a retired New York Police Department detective sergeant who trains law enforcement officers, said, "You would never put a detainee struggling to breathe face down because that never promotes free breathing."
The officer who drove the van, Caesar Goodson Jr., has been charged with second-degree, depraved-heart murder, and involuntary manslaughter, among other charges. Rice, who was the highest-ranking officer at the arrest scene, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office and false imprisonment.
The six officers who are charged in the case are free on bail and have asked Mosby to recuse herself from the case because of alleged conflicts of interest, including past professional relationships with William H. "Billy" Murphy Jr., the lawyer for Gray's family. Mosby has rejected that request.
Shortly after Gray's death, police posted fliers around the area asking residents with video of the incident to come forward. A police news release on April 16 stated that when the van departed from Mount and Baker streets, video evidence indicated that Gray was "conscious and speaking."
It is unclear which video police are referring to; neither the cellphone video taken with Gross' phone nor the security camera initially released by police reveals Gray speaking or moving.
Gross said police never reached out to her for the cellphone video footage and she has not spoken to them.
Gray's death still upsets Gross. She has seen police beatings portrayed on television but has never known anyone who died from alleged brutality — certainly not someone she used to call "son."