A prisoner who was sharing the same Baltimore police vehicle as Freddie Gray told investigators Gray was “intentionally trying to injure himself,” but questions remain over the witness account and its consistency with what has already been reported.
The news comes from documents obtained by the
Washington Post, which state that the prisoner told
investigators Gray was “banging against the walls”
inside of the transport van.
However, the prisoner could not actually see Gray because there
was a metal partition separating the two men.
The prisoner, whose identity has been concealed because of fears
of reprisals, is a 38-year-old man currently in jail and accused
of violating a protection order. There is no information as to
how many other prisoners were in the van.
His statement, written by a Baltimore police investigator, is
sealed by the court and contained in an application for a search
warrant. It offers one theory about what might have happened
inside the van.
Other journalists are questioning the veracity of the Post’s
story. MSNBC’s Chris Hayes said that as the prisoner couldn’t
actually see Gray, it would be hard to make the statement that
the banging against the walls had been intentional. He also said
it is strange that this is the only document that has been
Also, the prisoner in question couldn’t actually see Freddie
Gray; kinda hard to confidently infer intention from the sound
— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) April
Meanwhile, Baltimore investigative journalist Jayne Miller of
WBAL told Hayes that the Post story is “inconsistent”
with what her outlet has reported. She said that the prisoner
would have only been in the van with Gray for 5 minutes, and that
by the time the prisoner is loaded into the vehicle, Gray was
She added on Twitter that there’s “no evidence” of Gray
banging his head against the van. She also said Baltimore Police
Commissioner Anthony Batts described Gray as “mostly
quiet” in the van.
We have reported that when van stopped to pick up 2nd prisoner,
sources say, Gray was unresponsive. No evidence banging head
— Jayne Miller (@jemillerwbal) April
BPD Commissioner Anthony Batts on 4/23 told us second prisoner
in police van said Freddie Gray was “mostly quiet”. ..
— Jayne Miller (@jemillerwbal) April
The Post contacted the Gray family for comment. One of their
attorneys said the family had not been told about the prisoner’s
comments to investigators.
“We disagree with any implication that Freddie Gray severed
his own spinal cord,” attorney Jason Downs said. “We
question the accuracy of the police reports we’ve seen thus far,
including the police report that says Mr. Gray was arrested
without force or incident.”
The Post also contacted Baltimore police for comment but they
What is know so far is that Gray, 25, was arrested by Baltimore
police on April 12th. Video of the arrest, taken by a bystander,
shows officers on top of Gray and then dragging him to the police
van, which eventually transported him to the Wester District
Police Station. Upon arrival, police found him unconscious in the
van and called an ambulance.
Gray was found to have suffered broken vertebra and an injured
voice box, and had to undergo emergency spinal surgery, after
which he slipped into a coma from which he never recovered. His
death touched off a wave of protests across Baltimore. These were
capped by a riot on Monday in which angry residents’ torched
buildings, looted stores and pelted police officers with rocks.
For its part, the Baltimore Police Department said it will finish
its investigation by Friday and hand over the results to the
state’s attorney’s office for a decision on whether to indict the
six police officers involved in the Gray incident. They have been
suspended with pay while the investigation unfolds.
The police commissioner has been critical of his officers for
repeatedly ignoring Gray’s call for help and for failing to
secure him in the back of the van. The Justice Department is also
conducting its own investigation.