An autopsy of Freddie Gray obtained by the Baltimore Sun determined that he died from a single “high-energy injury” that was most likely caused when the police van he was in suddenly decelerated or changed direction.
The Maryland state medical examiner’s office ruled that Gray’s death on April 19 was a homicide, not an accident, because officers didn’t follow safety procedures “through acts of omission.”
According to the report cited by the Sun, the officers who loaded Gray into the back of the police van failed to properly belt him in. During transport, with his wrists and ankles shackled, Gray was “at risk for an unsupported fall during acceleration or deceleration of the van,” the medical examiner determined.
While the autopsy can’t establish exactly what happened in the van, we do know that Gray was able to talk and breathe when he entered the vehicle. By the time he got out of the van, he couldn’t do either. A week later, Gray, 25, died from the injuries he sustained while in police custody, including three fractured neck vertebrae and a crushed voice box. Experts say the type of injuries Gray suffered require “significant force” and resemble those suffered by victims of car crashes or shallow-water diving accidents.
Gray’s death sparked protests and unrest throughout Baltimore and around the country — not because it was particularly unusual, but because it wasn’t. Baltimore police have a history of using physical brutality against the community that the force is supposed to be protecting, and — as with many other departments — officers with a history of violence are allowed to remain on the force with little to no accountability.
Bydon cited the case of a 57-year-old Alabama man who was paralyzed in February after being handcuffed and thrown to the ground, suffering a severe neck injury. Handcuffs prevent a person from being able to brace themselves in a fall, placing pressure on the head and neck when they land, he said
Six officers involved in Gray’s death have been charged by Baltimore state’s attorney’s office. The driver of the van, Officer Caesar Goodson, was charged with “depraved heart” murder in the second degree, the most serious offense in this case. The other officers face lesser charges. All six have enter not guilty pleas.
According to the Baltimore Sun, the autopsy report was completed April 30, the day before charges against the officers were announced. The paper obtained the report, which has not been made public, by sources who requested anonymity because of the high-profile nature of the case.