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Baltimore on edge after arrestee's death

April 21, 2015

The death of an African American man at the hands of the police has raised tensions in the US city of Baltimore. Local officials are demanding answers.

Baltimore USA Protest Freddie Gray
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Amy Davis/The Baltimore Sun via AP

On Tuesday, residents in the northeastern city awaited more details in the case of 25-year-old Freddie Gray.

Gray died Sunday of spinal cord injuries, after being arrested on April 12, and then fell into a coma. He was charged with possession of a switchblade knife, according to a police report.

Gray's arrest was captured on video, showing the police dragging the handcuffed black man into a police van, while he yells in pain.

"None of his limbs were broken. He did suffer a very tragic injury to his spinal cord, which resulted in his death," said deputy police commissioner Jerry Rodriguez said Monday, adding that the officers were suspended.

"What we don't know, and what we need to get to, is how that injury occurred."

Rodriguez said Gray had asked for an inhaler after his arrest and that he became "irate" while sitting in a police van. According to the police sources, paramedics were called 42 minutes after his request.

By the time Gray was taken from the van, he could not breathe or talk, according to Rodriguez.

Baltimore officials said they would have a full report finished by May 1 and send it to state authorities. They also plan to have an independent third party look into the incident.

Baltimore police were "not in the business of hiding facts," Rodriguez said.

On Monday morning, protesters gathered outside of City Hall carrying "Black Lives Matter" signs, a slogan that became popular during mass protests in Ferguson following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.

Lawyers claim 'cover up'

The news of the incident comes after a string of affairs involving deaths of African Americans at the hands of the police, incidents which have raised racial tensions and sparked riots across the United States.

The lawyer for Gray family said the 25-year old was arrested "for committing no crime" and accused police of a cover up. In addition, some 100 Baltimore citizens and activists rallied in front of a local police headquarters after Gray's death, demanding more information.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said Monday that the city was experiencing "a great deal of trauma" and promised to continue police reform.

"I'm frustrated not only that we're here but we don't have all of the answers. I want to know why the officers pursued Mr Gray. I want to know if the proper procedures were followed. I want to know what steps need to be taken for accountability," she said.

dk/kms (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)