A cellphone video shot by a resident provides a closeup look at Freddie Gray at a critical moment that sheds light on his death and the prosecution of police officers by Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby. A story by the Baltimore Sun this morning reported, “That video, combined with the account of Gross and her neighbor, provide the most detailed public account of the van stop — a key moment in Gray’s fatal encounter with police.”
The video shows Mr. Gray partially out of the van. He is on his stomach, flat on the floor of the van with his legs hanging off the back. The video shows him motionless as four officers stand over him placing shackles around his ankles.
The Sun interviews Michelle Gross, 58, who shot the video and said “she was shocked at the turn of events that led to Gray’s death from a spinal injury.”
“I thought his leg was just broke and that he was just going to the police station and we would hear him that afternoon,” she said
Much of the known video was taken of the arrest of Mr. Gray but much less is known about what happened a block later, as the van stopped and Mr. Gray was shackled.
The Sun reports this was a key moment. They cite charging documents which state : “Following transport from Baker Street, Mr. Gray suffered a severe and critical neck injury as a result of being handcuffed, shackled by his feet and unrestrained inside of the [Baltimore Police Department] wagon.”
The Sun continues, “Mosby also said officers violated department policy by not securing Gray with a seat belt and not providing medical care when he requested it. Charging documents state that officers placed Gray in the van head first and on his stomach before transporting him around West Baltimore.”
The key defense by the police is that Mr. Gray was acting “irate.” That compelled them to take him out of the van and restrain him.
The media reports are not clear whether the prosecutor’s office had seen this particular video.
The Sun reports, “The video shot by Gross’ neighbor is distorted and shows just a few seconds at the back of the van. As officers restrain Gray, the video shows another officer pull up in a patrol car, get out and walk toward the van. (The neighbor did not allow his name to be published because he feared retaliation by police, but Gross allowed The Sun to copy the video from her phone.)”
The Sun continues, “At this point on the cellphone video, Gross yells to Gray, ‘You all right?’ No response is detectable from the recording and Gross said she didn’t hear Gray respond. Her neighbor yells, ‘Porter, can we get a supervisor up here please?’ He said he was yelling at Officer William Porter, who would be one of the six charged in the case.”
“The neighbor said Porter motioned to Rice, identifying him as the supervisor. On the video, the neighbor says, ‘Can we get someone else out here? This is not cool. This is not cool. Do you hear me?’ The man’s shouts are heard on the phone, but not the officers’ responses.”
According to the Sun, while the police did not ask the neighbor to stop recording, Lt. Rice took out his Taser and threatened to use it if he didn’t leave.
At this point they walked away.
According to the Sun, the surveillance video confirms some of this account showing three officers moving toward the neighbor, standing between him and the van and the neighbor disappears from camera’s view.
Ms. Gross told the Sun that she did not understand why the police van made the stop.
“He was just laying there. If he already had cuffed him, what did they take them off for, what was the reason from point A to B,” said Ms. Gross. “Why was he out? What happened in the back, we don’t know but something happened.”
The Sun notes that “Shortly after Gray’s death, police posted fliers around the area asking residents with video of the incident to come forward. A police news release on April 16 stated that when the van departed from Mount and Baker streets, video evidence indicated that Gray was ‘conscious and speaking.’”
The Sun reports, “It is unclear which video police are referring to; neither the cellphone video taken with Gross’ phone nor the security camera initially released by police reveals Gray speaking or moving.”
Ms. Gross told the paper that police never reached out to her for the cellphone video footage and she has not spoken to them.
—David M. Greenwald reporting