(CNN) — Perhaps lost amid the chaos that has descended on Baltimore is that two investigations are seeking to determine how Freddie Gray suffered a fatal spine injury in police custody.
A scroll through the reports out of the Baltimore Police Department Twitter feed since Gray’s death offers a tour of the mayhem the city has experience — looting, vandalism, blazes, attacks on police and firefighters, marauding “criminals” stoking the havoc.
Talk of the violence has overtaken, or at least outweighed, updates about the investigation.
The investigation is scheduled to be completed Friday, at which point, it will be handed over to a prosecutor who will decide whether to file charges in the case.
“Let me further clear up: When we take our information or our files to the State’s Attorney’s Office on Friday, that is not the conclusion of this investigation,” Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said last week. “That is just us sitting down, providing all the data we have. We will continue to follow the evidence wherever it goes.”
Law enforcement officials familiar with the investigation caution that it is far from a clear-cut case against anyone involved.
Even with the probe being handed over Friday, one of Gray’s lawyers said not to expect an announcement on whether charges will be filed. Mary Koch further expressed hope that city officials would make this clear so that the public doesn’t have unreasonable expectations.
“I hate to say this, but I think if people are waiting for answers or charges to come on Friday. I don’t think that’s going to happen based on the way the process works, and I think that the government officials need to advise people of how the process honestly works and to lower their expectations about what’s going to happen this Friday,” Koch told CNN.
Despite the public’s thirst for answers, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake warned that pushing out information hastily could derail the probe.
“What we’ve seen in other jurisdictions, where there have been information put out too early when the investigation wasn’t completed, officers had a chance to collaborate or collude and get their stories together, and it wasn’t helpful to the investigation,” she said. “We want to protect this process to ensure that Freddie Gray has justice.”
As for the federal investigation into whether Gray’s death was the result of a prosecutable civil rights violation, newly appointed Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Monday that the Justice Department’s civil rights division and the FBI “will continue our careful and deliberate examination of the facts in the coming days and weeks.”
Because of the Baltimore Police Department’s history, the Justice Department has been working with the police force since October as part of a reform initiative that will assess “policies, training and operations as they relate to use of force and interactions with citizens.”
Rawlings-Blake requested that the Justice Department to take a look at the police department, The Baltimore Sun reported, saying that her request came on the heels of the newspaper’s report that the city had paid almost $6 million in judgments and settlements in 102 police misconduct civil suits since 2011. Overwhelmingly, The Sun reported, the people involved in the incidents that sparked the lawsuits were cleared of criminal charges.
Many questions remain
City officials have promised answers and accountability in Gray’s death.
“We welcome outside review,” police spokesman Capt. Eric Kowalczyk has said. “We want to be open. We want to be transparent. We owe it to the city, and we owe it to the Gray family to find out exactly what happened.”
Added Rawlings-Blake, “We will get to the bottom of it, and we will go where the facts lead us. … We will hold people accountable if we find there was wrongdoing.”
According to police, officers encountered Gray on April 12 and he “fled unprovoked.” Three officers gave chase, apprehended Gray and carried him — screaming, his legs dangling listlessly — to a police transport van. Once at the police station, officers requested an ambulance, which took Gray to the University of Maryland’s Shock Trauma Center, where he died a week later.
An autopsy report indicated Gray died of a spinal injury, but Batts said Friday that the medical examiner was still awaiting a toxicology report and a spinal expert’s analysis before issuing his final report.
So far, six officers involved in the arrest have been suspended with pay: Sgt. Alicia White, 30; Officer William Porter, 25; Officer Garrett Miller, 26; Officer Edward Nero, 29; Lt. Brian Rice, 41; and Officer Caesar Goodson, 45.
Releasing the officers’ names is standard procedure after an in-custody death and in no way implicates wrongdoing, Kowalczyk said.
Though the investigation is not yet complete, Batts said Friday that there are at least two indications that officers involved in Gray’s arrest did not follow protocol.
“We know he was not buckled in the transport wagon, as he should’ve been. No excuses for that, period,” he said. “We know our police employees failed to get him medical attention in a timely manner multiple times.”
That Gray wasn’t buckled has raised speculation that he was injured during what’s known as a “rough ride” or “nickel ride,” in which officers place a handcuffed suspect in a police van and drive recklessly so as to toss the suspect around.
Asked whether Gray could have incurred his injuries via a rough ride or outside of the van, Batts said there is “potential” that both could be true.
The Baltimore Police Department has established a task force composed of 30 investigators — including members of the force investigation unit and homicide detectives — to look into Gray’s death, Batts said.
They’ve conducted dozens of interviews, canvassed the region on foot seeking witnesses and procured video from several closed-circuit television cameras around the city.
Deputy Commissioner Kevin Davis, who is overseeing the task force as the head of the Investigations and Intelligence Bureau, said Friday that the evidence shows Rice and two other officers on bikes were the first to see Gray. Two officers remained on their bikes and one gave chase on foot, pursuing Gray for about one-fifth of a mile.
“That’s where the apprehension of Freddie Gray occurred, and quite frankly, that’s exactly where Freddie Gray should have have received medical attention, and he did not,” Davis said Friday.
The paddy wagon carrying Gray traveled about one block before stopping, and Gray was removed from the van and placed in leg irons, Davis said. It then traveled about 1.3 miles before stopping again “to deal with Mr. Gray, and the facts of that interaction are under investigation,” he said.
It was at that stop, Batts added, that officers picked Gray off the floor and placed him on a seat in the transport van. Gray requested a medic during that stop, he said.
The van then traveled to another incident, about a mile away and just a few hundred feet from where Gray was first spotted and chased. There, a second prisoner was placed in the van, which headed back to the police department’s Western District building, about four-fifths of a mile away, the deputy commissioner said.
It was only then that an ambulance was called and Gray was taken to the University of Maryland’s Shock Trauma Center.
“It’s complex,” Davis said of the probe. “It involves a minutiae of details. It requires our full talents, our full time, and we’re going to get this right.”
While Batts told reporters that “the picture is getting sharper and sharper as we move forward,” he said there is still a gap between where officers first chased Gray and where bystander video captures the officers mid-arrest before carrying him to the van.
“He’s able to talk. He’s able to move. He’s able to stand on his left foot. I’m told he’s able to enter the van at that point in time,” he said.
Every stage of Gray’s transport is being investigated, Davis said, but the details are not yet clear enough to share with the public at the moment.
Batts elaborated: “What you see us tap dancing on and balancing here is that if someone harmed Freddie Gray, we’re going to have to prosecute them.”
Giving out too much information now, he said, could endanger the prosecution.