The Slatest

WaPo: Police Van Passenger Says Freddie Gray “Was Intentionally Trying to Injure Himself”

A still from video of Freddie Gray’s arrest by Baltimore Police on April 12th.

Screenshot/Balitmore Sun

Much is still unknown about the death of Freddie Gray. The 25-year-old was arrested in Baltimore on April 12 and then taken to the hospital with a severed spinal cord shortly after. Gray died a week after the arrest, on April 19.

The timing and cause of the spinal injury that lead to his death are still murky. On Wednesday the Washington Post reported a new, somewhat curious strand of evidence on what might have happened between Gray’s arrest and his arrival at the hospital.  

Here’s more from the Post:

A prisoner sharing a police transport van with Freddie Gray told investigators that he could hear Gray “banging against the walls” of the vehicle and believed that he “was intentionally trying to injure himself,” according to a police document obtained by the Washington Post.

The prisoner, who is currently in jail, was separated from Gray by a metal partition and could not see him. His statement is contained in an application for a search warrant, which is sealed by the court. The Post was given the document under the condition that the prisoner not be named because the person who provided it feared for the inmate’s safety.

The document, written by a Baltimore police investigator, offers the first glimpse of what might have happened inside the van. It is not clear whether any additional evidence backs up the prisoner’s version, which is just one piece of a much larger probe.

One major point of contention is when exactly Gray was injured—during the arrest, or after? The possibility that Gray, or anyone who’s just been chased down and arrested, was “banging against the walls” doesn’t seem far-fetched. If true, it would indicate his spinal cord was not injured during the initial arrest. The idea of Gray intentionally trying to injure himself seems ludicrous at best and, more cynically, self-serving for a police force that just had a young man die under its supervision. Not to mention, as the Post points out, the passenger who provided the account could not see Gray at the time, making it difficult to ascribe intent to whatever he heard going on.

The police report on the arrest said Gray was detained “without force or incident” and he was injured “during transport.” The Baltimore police have said they do not yet know when or how Gray’s injuries occurred.  “A lawyer representing police officers involved said that Gray was injured inside the van, and there’s been speculation that Gray was intentionally injured by an unrestrained ‘rough ride,’ ” the Slatest’s Ben Mathis-Lilley wrote earlier today. “But both videos—and witness reports that Gray was struck and ‘bent up’ by the officers who arrested him—seem to suggest the possibility that he was injured before being put into the van.”

Read more of Slate’s coverage of Freddie Gray’s death.