Latest on Baltimore police-custody death: Protests wind down

By The Associated Press

9:45 p.m.

At 5 p.m. Thursday, before any other protesters had arrived, Noah Smith stood in the middle of Mount Street, silently holding a sign in front of 50 police officers guarding the Western District police station in Baltimore.

At a quarter of 10, after all the other protesters had left, Smith remained, holding his sign.

The sign read: "Our inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness should never be subject to the whim of law enforcement."

Smith said, "I'm just out here in the trenches for those who can't be. It's 2015. Times have changed. This shouldn't be happening."

In between his silent protest, he was surrounded by hundreds of protesters. Many were angry, shouting obscenities at police. But he understands why so many in the crowd are so angry. He said he is hopeful that the energy will continue even after the TV cameras move on.


8:30 p.m.

Commissioner Anthony Batts has told The Associated Press that there are no circumstances under which a prisoner should not be wearing a seatbelt during transport.

Batts said Thursday that Freddie Gray, "wasn't wearing a seatbelt and that's part of our investigation. It's our responsibility to make sure people are safely transported, especially if their hands are behind their back."

Batts also said another man who was a passenger in the van during the tail end of Gray's ride told investigators that Gray was "was still moving around, that he was kicking and making noises" up until the van arrived at the station.

But Batts was careful to say that the investigation includes "everything the officers did that day."


8 p.m.

Protesters are continuing a rally at Baltimore Police station just blocks from where Freddie Gray was arrested.

Similar protests have occurred there the last several days.

More than 50 officers manned a barricade surrounding the station, separating them from the protesters.

The protest was peaceful, though some in the crowd hurled insults at the officers behind the fence, who stared back stone-faced.


7 p.m.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts has met with members of Freddie Gray's family.

The day Gray died, Batts said at a City Hall news conference that the family had declined at that point to interact with police. He promised the department would try again during the week to share information with them.

Police tweeted Thursday that the meeting took place with Batts "listening to their pain & expressing his sympathy. He updated them on the investigation."


A friend of Freddie Gray's who recorded video of his arrest says police had Gray's legs bent "like he was a crab or a piece of origami."

Kevin Moore told The Baltimore Sun in a story posted Thursday that "the police yelled 'stop resisting,' but there was no resistance. He couldn't move."

Gray was arrested April 12. Police said an officer patrolling an area known for drug activity made eye contact with Gray and he ran. Several officers arrested Gray and he was loaded into a police van. At some point while in custody, he suffered a spinal injury that led to his death Sunday.


6:30 p.m.

Protesters marching in support of Freddie Gray briefly scuffled with police, shouting at them and throwing objects.

Baltimore Police said on their Twitter feed that at least two people were taken into custody for disorderly conduct and destruction of property. The protesters also surrounded a police transport van, similar to the one Gray was put in after he was arrested.

Police formed a barrier around the van and it was able to leave the area. The march carried on.

It has lasted for a couple of hours, shutting down rush hour traffic. Protesters have grown increasingly agitated.

Gray died Sunday after suffering a spinal injury in police custody.


6 p.m.

Protesters continue marching through rush hour traffic in downtown Baltimore, angry over the death of Freddie Gray.

The demonstrators are walking through traffic that is three lanes wide at times. At one point Thursday, police tried to block a major intersection and the protesters briefly scuffled with them. The officers eventually relented and let the demonstrators through the intersection.

City officials warned commuters that congestion could be bad during the march. At another point, demonstrators surrounded a University of Maryland police car, pointing and shouting at an officer inside. One protester started banging on the car and the others told him to stop. He did.


5 p.m.

Protesters upset over the death of Freddie Gray are marching through downtown Baltimore, chanting and blocking rush hour traffic.

People are coming out of stores to watch. Commuters at bus stops are taking pictures with their phones and some drivers are honking their horns to the rhythm of the chants.

Marchers were escorted by police officers on motorcycles who kept intersections clear.

Gray died Sunday of a mysterious spinal injury while in police custody.


4:25 p.m.

After about 30 minutes of speeches interspersed with prayer, protesters at a Freddie Gray rally near City Hall have started marching through downtown.

The demonstrators are being escorted by police offices on motorcycles. City officials warned commuters earlier in the day to leave work early or be prepared for congested traffic.

The protesters are upset over the death of Gray, who suffered a spinal injury in police custody. He died Sunday.


4 p.m.

A police helicopter is circling over demonstrators who have gathered near City Hall for a Freddie Gray rally.

About 200 people are chanting and listening to speakers talk about police brutality and Gray, who died of a mysterious spinal injury he suffered while in police custody.

"We're not calling for revenge. We're calling for justice," the Rev. Jamal Bryant told the crowd.

The helicopter drew the ire of Bryant, who echoed a sentiment that police were overreacting to protesters.


3:30 p.m.

About 200 people have gathered near Baltimore City Hall to rally for Freddie Gray, a black man who died while in police custody.

Demonstrators are yelling "no justice, no peace" and holding signs that say "Freddie Gray." The 25-year-old Gray died of a mysterious spinal injury he suffered while in police custody.

Peaceful protests have been held for Gray for the past six straight days. State troopers have been called to help and commuters were warned traffic could be congested Thursday.


3:10 p.m.

People in Baltimore and other cities accuse police of sometimes giving prisoners an extra-rough "nickel ride" in the back of a transport van and are asking whether this tactic might have been a factor in the death of Freddie Gray.

Gray was arrested and put into a transport van. He died a week later of a mysterious spinal injury suffered at some point while in police custody.

A lawyer for the family of Dondi Johnson says that's he died of a "rough ride" after his arrest for public urination in Baltimore in 2005. Attorney Kerry D. Staton said Johnson was seated alone in the van with his hands cuffed behind him and no seat belt to restrain him.

Staton says Johnson was thrown from one seat into the opposite wall, and that's how he broke his neck.

Johnson's family won a $7.4 million judgment that was reduced to $200,000, the legal cap for such cases.

In 2001, Philadelphia police barred transportation of prisoners without padding or belts after The Philadelphia Inquirer reported the city had paid $2.3 million to settle lawsuits by people subjected to intentionally rough rides, including two who were permanently paralyzed.


2:30 p.m.

A lawyer for the Baltimore police officers union says Freddie Gray wasn't strapped in with a seat belt after he was hoisted into a police van and driven to a Baltimore station.

Failing to belt an inmate would violate a policy on handling detainees issued by their own department just nine days prior to Gray's arrest.

The document, released by a police department spokesman, says "all passengers, regardless of age and location, shall be restrained by seat belts or other authorized restraining devices."

Assistant Police Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez said Gray was secured by "leg irons" after he became agitated during the trip, but the department hasn't said whether he was left otherwise unsecured, as Attorney Michael Davey has said. Davey acknowledged that department policy requires seat belts, but said "policy is policy, practice is something else," particularly if a prisoner is combative.


2:15 p.m.

Officials in Baltimore are urging commuters to head home early as the city prepares for more large protests in the police-custody death of Freddie Gray.

Protesters plan to gather Thursday afternoon at City Hall and near the site of Gray's arrest. Gray died of a mysterious spinal injury he suffered after he was arrested April 12.

City officials say workers may take liberal leave starting at 2 p.m.

The city's Department of Transportation is warning drivers to expect heavy congestion with "unpredictable conditions" through the afternoon and evening. They encourage workers to leave downtown before 3 p.m. "to avoid major disruptions."


2 p.m.

The governor of Maryland is sending state troopers to Baltimore to help with protests following the police-custody death of Freddie Gray.

Gov. Larry Hogan's office said Thursday that a team of 32 troopers are being sent to help with crowd control at the request of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. Baltimore police say it's common to ask for troopers to help with events that have large crowds.

There have been demonstrations for nearly a week. On Wednesday night, the protest splintered into two groups. As one group cursed at police and threw some soda cans at them, another group marched 20 blocks to City Hall, at times blocking intersections and disruption traffic as they shouted: "No justice, no peace."

Three people were detained, no one was hurt and the protests remained largely peaceful.


1:45 p.m.

A civil rights group says it will conduct its own investigation into the death of Freddie Gray, a black man who died of a mysterious spinal injury he suffered after he was arrested by Baltimore police.

The Baltimore chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference said Thursday that a former Philadelphia police officer will conduct the investigation for the group. Baltimore police are doing an internal investigation and the Justice Department has opened a probe to see if Gray's civil rights were violated when he was arrested April 12.

The Rev. C.D. Witherspoon, the head of the civil rights' group's local chapter, said an independent investigation is needed because police brutality in Baltimore has gone unpunished.

"We have no faith in City Hall," Witherspoon said. "You can prove us wrong. We challenge City Hall to prove us wrong."

Former Philadelphia officer Terence Jones will lead the investigation by speaking with witnesses to the arrest. He says he'll try to speak with officers involved, but doubts they will talk to him.

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