Baltimore officer said Freddie Gray asked for help

According to investigators doing a departmental probe, at least one officer warned Gray needed medical attention


By Justin George and Kevin Rector
The Baltimore Sun

BALTIMORE — As Freddie Gray was being transported in a police van through West Baltimore, at least one officer warned that Gray needed medical care but wondered, along with others, whether he was faking injuries or being uncooperative, according to investigators who reviewed the officers' statements during a departmental probe.

Those statements — which have never been publicly revealed — help to explain why a judge has ordered separate trials for six officers charged in the incident. Some of the statements provide differing accounts of events that day; defense attorneys have argued in court that such conflicts could create problems in a joint trial.

Officer William Porter told police investigators that after being summoned to check on Gray on the morning of April 12, he told the van's driver that the city booking facility would not process Gray because he was in medical distress.

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"Help me. Help me up," Gray said.

Porter helped Gray up and asked, "Do you need a medic or something? Do you need to go to the hospital?"

When Gray responded affirmatively, Porter said he told the van's driver, Officer Caesar Goodson, Jr., that Central Booking wouldn't accept Gray. Porter also told investigators he wasn't sure if Gray was in distress, or trying to convince officers to take him to the hospital instead of jail.

That sequence of events was drawn from a police account of Porter's statement, provided as part of an initial police review of Gray's fatal injury in police custody; Goodson was the only officer charged in Gray's arrest and transport who did not provide a statement to investigators. The statements shed new light on the events of April 12 including prosecutors' allegations that officers failed to provide medical care to the 25-year-old.

The Baltimore Sun was granted exclusive access to the Police Department's investigation, in which detectives outlined the officers' statements and scrutinized Gray's arrest and transport — days before any charges were filed in the case or any court proceedings began.

Police did not show or provide The Sun with the actual statements given by the officers. Some of the officers' statements conflict, and the police summary might not reflect the full account of each officer.

Those statements to investigators have become a key issue in the case.

Prosecutors have asked that Porter go on trial first because they say he will be called as a witness to testify against two other officers. In a letter to Judge Barry Williams, Chief Deputy State's Attorney Michael Schatzow said Porter is "a necessary and material witness in the cases against" Goodson and Sgt. Alicia White.

In an earlier hearing, defense attorneys raised concerns that the statements could create problems in a joint trial pitting one defendant's right to confront his or her accuser against another's right not to testify. Partially redacted statements by some officers were submitted to the court, though under seal.

Attorneys for the officers who provided statements have argued in motions — unsuccessful to date — that the statements should be suppressed because they were not properly advised of their rights against self-incrimination or their rights under the Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights. Some officers have argued that they made their statements under duress because they feared losing their jobs, or were led to believe they were providing statements as witnesses rather than suspects.

Prosecutors — who allege that officers violated department policy by failing to put Gray in a seatbelt and to provide medical care — have said that all of the statements were legally and properly obtained. Gray died April 19 from an injury sustained in police custody, according to prosecutors, and his death triggered massive protests that devolved into looting and rioting. As police investigators tried to determine how Gray sustained his fatal injury, prosecutors used the local sheriff's office to conduct a parallel probe.

Recently, the city agreed to pay $6.4 million to Gray's family to settle any civil claims; in that agreement, neither the city nor its officers acknowledged any wrongdoing.

Goodson faces the most serious charge: second-degree murder. Porter, White and Lt. Brian W. Rice are charged with manslaughter. Officers Edward M. Nero and Garrett E. Miller face lesser charges, including second-degree assault. All have pleaded not guilty; a scheduling hearing for their trials will be held on Tuesday.

Asked to comment on the officers' statements for this article, defense attorney Joseph Murtha issued a statement on behalf of all of the defense attorneys, while noting that Williams has told the prosecution and defense to refrain from discussing the case in public.

"We are at a disadvantage because we cannot comment on the inaccuracy or accuracy of the statements," it said. Because police gave The Sun access to the investigation, information that "contends to represent our clients' statements is being disclosed at a time and in a manner which is both unfair and unconstitutional. We look forward to the opportunity for a complete and thorough review of all of the evidence and information that will be presented at trial."

The Baltimore state's attorney's office declined to comment.

The officers' statements recounted the basic timeline of events, which began with Gray being arrested at the Gilmor Homes public housing complex and loaded into the van. In the days following Gray's death, a 30-member task force used those statements and other evidence to recreate the van's journey of approximately 45 minutes through West Baltimore, scrutinizing details of Gray's arrest and transport.

Copyright 2015 The Baltimore Sun

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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