The U.S. Department of Justice will investigate the death of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old Baltimore man who died Sunday following spinal injuries he received while in police custody. Gray, who is black, was arrested last week for allegedly possessing an illegal switchblade.
“The Department of Justice has been monitoring the developments in Baltimore, MD, regarding the death of Freddie Gray,” spokeswoman Dena Iverson said in a statement. “Based on preliminary information, the Department of Justice has officially opened this matter and is gathering information to determine whether any prosecutable civil rights violation occurred.”
Gray’s family’s attorney has said that Gray’s spine was 80 percent severed following his arrest. He was given surgery for a broken vertebra on Tuesday after falling into a coma the day before. Baltimore police maintain that he was arrested “without force or incident,” and that the injuries occurred while Gray was being transported by a police van.
Six Baltimore police officers were suspended with pay after Gray’s arrest. Identified by the department today, they are Lieutenant Brian Rice, Officer Caesar Goodson, Sergeant Alicia White, Officer William Porter, Officer Garrett Miller, and Officer Edward Nero.
Maryland lawmakers urged the DOJ to investigate Gray’s death in an open letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder published this morning. Signed by U.S. Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin as well as several House representatives, it reads in part:
We are deeply troubled by recent events in the City of Baltimore. As you know, Baltimore resident Freddie Gray, 25, died Sunday April 19, one week after he was injured while in Baltimore Police custody.
Freddie Gray’s family and the residents of the City of Baltimore deserve to know what happened to him while he was in police custody. We need answers.
While we support the efforts of the ongoing review into the policies and procedures of the Baltimore Police Department by the Community Oriented Policing Services Office, we request that the Department of Justice open a federal criminal and civil rights investigation into the death of Baltimore resident Freddie Gray.