‘ High- energy in­jury’ cited in de­tainee death

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - By Justin Fenton jfen­ton@tribpub.com Bal­ti­more Sun staff writer Justin Ge­orge con­trib­uted to this re­port.

BAL­TI­MORE — Fred­die Gray suf­fered a sin­gle “high­en­ergy in­jury” — like those seen in shal­low- wa­ter div­ing ac­ci­dents — most likely caused when the po­lice van in which he was rid­ing sud­denly de­cel­er­ated, ac­cord­ing to a copy of the au­topsy re­port ob­tained by the Bal­ti­more Sun.

The Mary­land med­i­cal ex­am­iner’s of­fice con­cluded that Gray’s death f it the med­i­cal and le­gal def­i­ni­tion of an ac­ci­dent, but ruled it a homi­cide be­cause of­fi­cers had failed to fol­low safety pro­ce­dures “through acts of omis­sion.”

Although Gray was loaded into the van on his belly, the med­i­cal ex­am­iner sur­mised that he may have got­ten to his feet and was thrown into the wall dur­ing an abrupt change in di­rec­tion. He was not belted in and his wrists and an­kles were shack­led, mak­ing him “at risk for an un­sup­ported fall dur­ing ac­cel­er­a­tion or de­cel­er­a­tion of the van.”

Gray, 25, was ar­rested April 12 af­ter a foot pur­suit, and suf­fered a se­vere spinal in­jury while in po­lice cus­tody. His death a week later sparked protests over po­lice bru­tal­ity, with un­rest in the city in­clud­ing loot­ing and ri­ot­ing.

The Bal­ti­more state’s at­tor­ney’s of­fice charged the six of­fi­cers in­volved in Gray’s ar­rest. Of­fi­cer Cae­sar R. Good­son Jr., the driver of the van, is charged with sec­ond- de­gree “de­praved heart” mur­der, and three other of­fi­cers are charged with man­slaugh­ter. The re­main­ing of­fi­cers face lesser charges.

All of the of­fi­cers have pleaded not guilty, and a trial has been set for Oc­to­ber.

The au­topsy re­port was com­pleted April 30, the day be­fore State’s Atty. Mar­i­lyn Mosby an­nounced crim­i­nal charges against the of­fi­cers. The au­topsy has not been made public, and the dead- line for re­leas­ing ev­i­dence to de­fense lawyers is Fri­day. A copy of the au­topsy was ob­tained and ver­i­fied by sources who re­quested anonymity be­cause of the high­pro­file na­ture of the case.

Mosby’s of­fice and the state med­i­cal ex­am­iner de­clined to com­ment.

Gray tested pos­i­tive for opi­ates and cannabi­noids when he was ad­mit­ted to the Shock Trauma Cen­ter in Bal­ti­more, ac­cord­ing to the au­topsy. The re­port makes no fur­ther ref­er­ence to drugs in his sys­tem and does not note any pre­vi­ous in­juries to Gray’s spine.

The au­topsy de­tails a chronol­ogy of the events sur­round­ing Gray’s ar­rest that helped in­form the med­i­cal ex­am­iner’s con­clu­sion. The ex­am­iner re­lied upon wit­ness state­ments, videos and an in­spec­tion of the van.

By­standers cap­tured his ar­rest on video, show­ing Gray moan­ing for help, but the au­topsy con­cluded that he suf­fered no in­juries from phys­i­cal re­straint like a neck hold. As­sis­tant Med­i­cal Ex­am­iner Carol H. Allan noted that video showed Gray bear­ing weight on his legs and speak­ing as he was loaded into the van.

Af­ter the doors were closed, Gray could be heard yelling and bang­ing, “caus­ing the van to rock,” the au­topsy noted.

The van made sev­eral stops. At the sec­ond one, of- f icers placed an iden­ti­fi­ca­tion band and leg re­straints on Gray, then put him back into the van “belly down and head f irst,” the med­i­cal ex­am­iner wrote.

Author­i­ties pre­vi­ously said the third stop was cap­tured on video, which showed the van driver, Good­son, get­ting out and look­ing in the back.

Dur­ing a fourth stop, author­i­ties said Good­son called for help, at which point Sgt. Alicia White, one of the of­fi­cers who has been charged with man­slaugh­ter, be­came in­volved.

“The as­sist­ing of­fi­cer opened the doors and ob­served Mr. Gray ly­ing belly down on the f loor with his head fac­ing the cabin com­part­ment, and re­port­edly he was ask­ing for help, say­ing he couldn’t breathe, couldn’t get up and needed a medic,” the au­topsy re­port says. “The of­fi­cer as­sisted Mr. Gray to the bench and the van con­tin­ued on its way.”

When the van made a fifth stop to pick up a sec­ond ar­restee, “Mr. Gray was found kneel­ing on the f loor, fac­ing the front of the van and slumped over to his right against the bench, and re­port­edly ap­peared lethar­gic with min­i­mal re­sponses to di­rect ques­tions,” the re­port says.

The med­i­cal ex­am­iner con­cluded that Gray’s most sig­nif­i­cant in­jury was to the lower- left part of his head. It most likely oc­curred be­tween the driver’s sec­ond and fourth stops, ac­cord­ing to the au­topsy.

Po­lice had said in a court fil­ing that the sec­ond ar­restee, who could not see Gray be­cause of a me­tal divider, re­ported hear­ing him bang­ing and kick­ing. Allan said that would not have been pos­si­ble given Gray’s in­juries, but he might have been suf­fer­ing a seizure that could have caused the noise.

FRED­DIE GRAY’S au­topsy re­port de­tails his in­juries in po­lice cus­tody.

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