Developments on Baltimore man fatally injured in custody
By MATTHEW BARAKAT and AMANDA LEE MYERS
BALTIMORE (AP) — A 25-year-old Baltimore man died a week after his spine was mysteriously injured while he was in police custody.
A look at the developments Wednesday in the case of Freddie Gray.
A statement released by the Baltimore police union comparing protesters of Gray's death to a "lynch mob" drew criticism on Twitter by users who called it racially insensitive and inappropriate, given that the demonstrations have been peaceful.
A little later, at a news conference, union President Gene Ryan backpedaled, saying, "Maybe I should reword that."
"I don't want it to turn into a lynch mob," he said.
"I'm afraid of the crowd becoming hostile," said a tense-sounding Ryan. "They have been very peaceful to this point. My main concern is for the public and the police officers that they remain peaceful and exercise their constitutional right to do what they're doing."
Ryan said he feared violence because of protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York that followed police-involved deaths of unarmed suspects.
One of two groups of protesters marched in the streets for 20 blocks Wednesday night, blocking intersections and disrupting traffic for short periods of time before moving on. They passed near the hospital where Gray died, and continued on to the Inner Harbor before stopping in front of City Hall.
Once there, some paused in front of a fountain and raised their hands, saying, "Hands up, don't shoot." They then approached barricades and officers protecting a courtyard directly in front of City Hall. A man with a bullhorn chanted, "No justice, no peace."
The group then marched to an onramp of Interstate 83, a highway that cuts through the city. The ramp was blocked by several police cruisers and a line of officers, their arms linked.
Pastor Wesley West of Faith Empowered Ministries linked arms with Gray's cousin, Carron Morgan, and they faced the crowd. After West led chants for justice and peace, and called for a moment of silence, protesters headed away from the interstate.
Morgan, 18, turned and quickly shook one of the officer's hands.
Asked why, he said: "At the end of the day, I don't think all cops are bad, just that some are corrupt."
Baltimore police took to Twitter to provide updates of where the marchers were, using the hashtag, #WeHearYou.
At a second protest at the Western District police precinct, more than 100 demonstrators pushed on a barricade, and about 30 police officers pushed back. Some protesters hurled obscenities and threw soda cans and bottles at the line of police behind the barricades, but none hit the officers and the demonstration remained largely peaceful.
For the most part, police ignored the insults did not react to provocations from the protesters.
At least three people were detained. No one was injured.
Mark Hill said anger in the community reached a boiling point after Gray's death, but that the frustration is longstanding.
"It's getting charged out here because people are really getting tired," Hill said. "There's a fear in the community of what police might do to you.
He said he has little confidence that police will be forthcoming about what happened to Gray.
"This is not an isolated event. This has been going on forever," he said.
Bernadette Washington said she has been marching every day since Gray's death.
Washington grew up with Gray and called him a good person who didn't need to die. She didn't understand why the six officers involved in Gray's arrest are still drawing a paycheck while they're suspended.
"All we want is justice," Washington said.
Five of the six officers involved in Gray's arrest gave statements that day, a week before his death, police said Wednesday while declining to reveal the content of what they said.
An attorney who works with the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police had mentioned the statements earlier in the day as a way of showing that the officers involved have been cooperative.
Police said the department's internal investigation into Gray's arrest will be turned over to the Baltimore State's Attorney's Office for review on May 1. The prosecutor's office can determine whether to file charges against the officers involved or present the case to a grand jury.
The U.S. Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation into Gray's death.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she welcomed the Justice Department's involvement. She has called along for an outside review.
"Whenever a police force conducts an internal investigation, there are always appropriate questions of transparency and impartiality," she said in a statement. "My goal has always been to get answers to the questions so many of us are still asking with regards to Mr. Gray's death."
Gray's family has an attorney who is working on his own investigation.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said he has spoken with city and state officials about the situation and won't be ordering any further investigations.
He said he believes the current investigations are being handled properly and that "the last thing we need is people stepping all over each other."
"We don't want to make politics out of this tragic situation," Hogan told reporters after an Earth Day event in Annapolis.
He said his heart goes out to Gray's family "and everyone involved in the entire incident."
"Like everyone else, we are hoping to get to the bottom of it and find out the facts."
Associated Press reporters Amanda Lee Myers and David Dishneau contributed to this report.
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