Autopsy: Freddie Gray Likely Got To His Own Feet Before Suffering Head Injury In Baltimore Police Van

REUTERS/Adrees Latif

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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Freddie Gray’s autopsy shows that he likely suffered a single “high-energy” injury after standing up on his own in the back of a Baltimore police transport van.

Though that injury met the medical and legal definition of an accident, the 25-year-old’s death was ruled a homicide, The Baltimore Sun reports.

The autopsy, which was completed on April 30, also showed that Gray had opiates and cannabinoid in his system when he was admitted to the hospital.

Six Baltimore cops involved in Gray’s April 12 arrest and his transport have been charged in the case. The driver of Gray’s police van, Caesar Goodson, Jr., faces the heaviest charge for second-degree depraved-heart murder. Goodson Jr. also faces a manslaughter charge, as do three other officers. Two officers involved strictly in Gray’s arrest face lesser charges.

In announcing charges against the six officers on May 1, Baltimore city state’s attorney Marilyn Mosby alleged that the cops failed to properly restrain Gray. They also did not provide Gray with medical assistance, she claimed. Mosby did not mention that Gray had drugs in his system. She also did not state that he had likely reached his feet before suffering a fatal fall.

The autopsy, which is scheduled to be released to defense attorneys on Friday, also bolsters a report that the homicide determination caught some Baltimore investigators by surprise. CNN reported last month that investigators were led to believe that the autopsy would conclude that Gray’s death would not be classified as a homicide. That determination is a crucial element to the case against the six officers. (RELATED: Claim: Task Force Investigating Freddie Gray Death Came To Different Conclusion Than State’s Attorney)

Assistant medical examiner Carol Allan, who conducted the autopsy, determined that Gray’s April 19 death was the result of “acts of omission.” According to The Sun, Gray’s injuries are similar to those sustained by people involved in shallow-diving accidents.

The autopsy undermines a belief held by many observers that Gray suffered a head injury or broken neck during his actual arrest. Allan’s determination also does not match a popular claim that Gray was injured because of what’s known as a “rough ride.” That’s where a police driver decelerates on purpose in order to injure an inmate.

According to Allan, Gray was not injured during his arrest, which was recorded in a now-viral cell phone video. Gray was also still “physically and verbally active” when officers stopped the van to place Gray in ankle shackles. Gray suffered his injury only after being put in those shackles and placed stomach-first into the police van.

But Allan concluded that Gray likely did not suffer his head injury while in that face-down position. She estimated that Gray had likely gotten to his feet — possibly by using the van wall and a bench — before his fall. Standing in the van put Gray “at risk for an unsupported fall during acceleration or deceleration of the van,” Allan determined. It is possible that Gray was sitting in the van when he sustained the fatal blow, but it is unlikely, according to Allan.

The autopsy provides a timeline of Gray’s arrest and transport which will prove crucial to the case. The van stopped five times after Gray was arrested. After being placed in the back of the police van on a metal bench, Gray reportedly continued yelling and slamming on the walls of the van causing it to rock back and forth.

After a third stop, Goodson got out of the van to check on Gray. After stopping a fourth time, Goodson called for assistance.

“The assisting officer opened the doors and observed Mr. Gray lying belly down on the floor 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 says, according to The Sun.

The assisting officer, Sgt. Alicia White, then helped Gray back onto the bench “and the van continued on its way.” White has been charged with manslaughter in the case.

The van made a fifth stop, this time to pick up Donta Allen, another arrestee.

“Mr. Gray was found kneeling on the floor, 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,” according to the autopsy.

The six officers have been indicted by a grand jury. Their trial date is tentatively scheduled for October.

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