(PIX11)– From Staten Island to Washington, D.C., the police custody death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore is resonating, and is likely to have a particularly strong effect on a national protest Wednesday that was organized by New Yorkers.
The greatest current effect of Gray’s death is evident in protests in Baltimore, which have happened daily since Gray, 25, died on Sunday. The protests, according to police, have been peaceful.
A medical examiner’s autopsy concluded that Gray, a Baltimore native, died from a severed spine. Exactly how the fatal injury happened is still under investigation, but what is clear are two new, significant developments.
The first is that the names of the six officers involved in the April 12th arrest were released on Tuesday. Among the officers involved were Lt. Brian Rice, 41, who is an 18-year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department. Rice was the first on scene to make eye contact with Gray, and he suspected him of criminal activity.
Gray ran away from police, which ultimately led to the young man’s arrest. He ended up only being charged with possession of a switch blade, which, according to Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, is not actually a criminal offense.
The other officers involved, who have been suspended with pay, are Sgt. Alicia White, 30, a five-year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department, as well as officers Caesar Goodson, 45, who joined the Baltimore force in 1999, William Porter, 25, a three-year veteran, Garrett Miller, 26, and Edward Nero. Both Miller and Nero have been on the force for three years.
Baltimore Police say that its standard procedure in their department to release the names of officers involved in “in-custody” deaths, and for those officers to be suspended with pay, pending an investigation.
Mayor Rawlings-Blake has pledged to complete an investigation by May 1st, the results of which will be turned over to state investigators. Meanwhile, the federal Department of Justice announced on Tuesday that it’s probing to see if Gray’s civil rights were violated.
As Baltimore’s mayor and deputy police chief pointed out, the investigations are key, since there are many very important questions that must be answered.
“What we don’t know, and what we need to get to,” Deputy Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez said on Tuesday, “is how that injury occurred. There was no physical bodily injury that we saw, nor was it evident in the autopsy.”
His boss, Mayor Rawlings-Blake, elaborated on the need to answer all of the many lingering questions. “We have to make sure this investigation goes forward,” she said, “that it’s transparent, and that we actually have independent eyes take a look at it, because it’s too important not to get right.”
Some of the demonstrators in Baltimore have been in the news recently here in New York, since quite a few of them are from here. Members of the group Justice League NYC have spent the last week marching to Washington from Staten Island. At a rally in Washington on Wednesday, they’ll call for laws to protect against police brutality. On their way, the 70 or so New Yorkers have joined in the protests in Baltimore.
The Wednesday anti-violence march on the mall in the capital is expected to draw thousands of protesters from across the country.