Lawyer for Freddie Gray's family asked Batts to stop talking about meeting

Lawyers for Freddie Gray's family say police commissioner never met with relatives.

As anger permeated Baltimore following Freddie Gray's death in police custody, then-Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts told reporters that he met with the 25-year-old's family.

But on April 24, William H. Murphy, Jr., the attorney hired by Gray's family, sent a terse letter to Batts.

"It has come to our attention that you made statements claiming to have met with the family of Freddie Gray, Jr. about the investigation into his death," Murphy wrote. "These statements are not true. Stated succinctly, you have not met with Mr. Gray's family. Please cease and desist making such statements."

Murphy also told Batts that any meeting with the family would be facilitated by lawyers at the firm. Murphy also copied Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake on the letter.

Asked about the email Monday, Murphy said, Batts "did not meet [Gray's] mother, stepfather, father or his siblings. He was giving the impression that he did."

Batts said Tuesday that he and other police officials, including then-Deputy Commissioner Kevin Davis, were deceived about the circumstances that triggered the meeting.

"I was lied to, Kevin Davis was lied to," Batts said.

The meeting was scheduled after a police official made contact with a man who said he was a member of Gray's family. "I said I was open to meeting any family members," Batts said.

Batts and some police department leaders met with the man and a few others, including a pastor.

"We had a conversation about keeping the peace ... about making sure the community knew the facts about what was going on," Batts said.

Later, Batts said, he and other police leaders learned that the man was not a member of Gray's family. Batts said he did not recall how he found out.

Murphy's letter was among more than 7,000 emails and documents that city officials turned over to The Baltimore Sun in response to a Maryland Public Information Act request. The emails and documents dealt with the way government officials handled protests and rioting following Gray's death.

When rioting and violence erupted in April, the leadership of Rawlings-Blake and Batts were called into question. Rawlings-Blake fired Batts earlier this month, and elevated Davis from deputy commissioner to interim commissioner.

mpuente@baltsun.com

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