‘ High- energy injury’ cited in detainee death
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.