Following the suspicious death of a man who died of injuries a week after being arrested by Baltimore police, the Department of Justice has announced that it will investigate the matter.
Freddie Gray was arrested of Apr. 12 after police found a knife in the front pocket of his pants. What's more, police allege that the 25-year-old fled as soon as he saw them. He was arrested, but suffered severe, mysterious injuries while in custody: An attorney hired by his family claims that his spine was 80 percent severed at the neck. He underwent emergency a day after the arrest, but died on Sunday morning.
The Baltimore Police Department maintains that Gray was arrested "without incident or force," insisting that they are unsure of how he was injured. The Associated Press reports that the DOJ has opened an investigation to determine if Gray's death was he result of foul play:
Justice Department spokeswoman Dena Iverson said investigators are gathering information to determine whether any prosecutable civil rights violation occurred.
It's not uncommon for federal investigators to look into allegations of excessive police force. Justice Department investigations in the last year include probes into the fatal shooting of an unarmed black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri — a case that resulted in no charges against the officer — and an ongoing review of a police chokehold death of a New York City man.
There's a high threshold for bringing federal civil rights charges against police officers in such cases. Federal investigators must show an officer willfully deprived a person of his or her civil rights by using more force than the law allows, a standard that's challenging in rapidly unfolding confrontations in which snap judgments are made.
The six officers involved with Gray's arrest have been suspended. While the police department will investigate the incident, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake noted that the State's Attorney's office will conduct an independent investigation.
[via Associated Press]