Kevin Richardson / The Baltimore Sun / AP Photo

Baltimore suspends six officers over man’s death

Suspensions came as city's top officials sought calm after death of Freddie Gray in police custody

Six Baltimore police officers have been suspended as the city’s top police officials, mayor and prosecutor sought calm Monday while investigating how a man suffered a fatal spine injury while under arrest.

A week after Freddie Gray was pulled off the street and into a police van, authorities don't have any videos or other evidence explaining what happened to cause the “medical emergency” an arresting officer said Gray suffered while being taken to the local police station, Deputy Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez said.

“We have no evidence physical or video or statements of any use of force, there was no physical bodily injury that we saw nor was it evident in the autopsy of Mr. Gray,” said Rodriguez at a press conference. “None of his limbs were broken, he did suffer a very tragic injury to his spinal cord which resulted in his death."

The Gray family's lawyer, Billy Murphy, had said that Gray's “spine was 80 percent severed at his neck.”

Gray’s death comes at a time of national attention to the use of lethal force by police officers, especially against unarmed African-Americans in deadly encounters, including incidents in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City.

Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said at the press conference that Gray asked first for an inhaler, and then several times during his transport for medical care.

“There were several times he made a medical request," Batts said. "We probably should have asked for paramedics.”

Something must have happened between the time Gray was videotaped by a bystander being dragged into the van, and the time he arrived at the station in deep distress, the deputy commissioner said.

“When Mr. Gray was put in that van, he could talk, he was upset. And when he was taken out of that van, he could not talk and he could not breathe,” Rodriguez said.

Batts also said it is still unclear why Gray was stopped in the first place, saying only that officers “made eye contact” with Gray and another man, and the two took off running.

“That's part of the question we have to dig into," Batts said, "if there's more than just running. There is no law against running.”

Batts said a department investigation would be concluded by the end of next week and the results forwarded to state prosecutors. After that, the probe will undergo an independent review, he said.

He said the Baltimore police would institute training and reforms on the transport of suspects and their medical treatment. The officers involved have been placed on administrative assignments.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she is “angry that we are here again” after trying to overcome decades of distrust between police and citizens in Baltimore's inner city.

Officer Garrett Miller's official request for a criminal charge against Gray, a 25-year-old black man who was only 5-foot-8 inches tall and 145 pounds, said that he had been arrested “without force or incident.”

Miller sought a charge of carrying a switchblade, punishable by a year in prison and a $500 fine, according to court records.

Miller's charging document doesn't provide any explanations for the injuries that would lead to Gray's death a week later. He wrote only that while being taken to the station, on April 12, “the defendant suffered a medical emergency and was immediately transported to Shock Trauma via medic.”

Another 30 minutes passed before police finally called an ambulance to retrieve Gray from the station. He arrived at the hospital in critical condition and died on Sunday after a week-long coma.

The documents, which misspell Gray's name as “Grey,” were first reported Monday by The Baltimore Sun. Police had not previously mentioned a knife, or publicly disclosed the charge against Gray.

Miller's signed report says he personally recovered the knife from Gray's pocket. It names five other officers to be summoned as witnesses in court, and says Gray was stopped after a brief foot chase because he “fled unprovoked upon noticing police presence.”

Wire services

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