BALTIMORE — Investigators believe Freddie Gray suffered serious head injuries while he was in a police transport van, although they have not concluded how the injuries occurred, according to a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation.
One wound occurred when Gray struck his head on a bolt that jutted out in the van, the official said, but that was not Gray’s only head injury. And the injuries overall are consistent with what medical examiners often see in car collisions, the official said.
The findings, which have not been publicly released, are part of an investigation into Gray’s death that Baltimore police handed over to prosecutors Thursday. The new information leaves many unanswered questions for a city roiled by riots and unrest after the 25-year-old’s death from injuries that occurred while in police custody.
Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts said at a news conference that his department provided the report a day before his self-imposed deadline because he understood residents’ anger and their eagerness to learn more about how Gray died. Still, he and a department spokesman declined to provide many details about what investigators uncovered.
“I understand the frustration. I understand the sense of urgency . . . and that is why we have finished it a day ahead of time,” Batts said. “I also know that getting to the right answer is more important than the speed.”
Although cellphone video showing Gray being dragged into the back of a police van with limp legs has ignited much of the attention, police have been focusing their probe on what happened to him in the back of the van. Police say his legs were shackled and he wasn’t wearing a seat belt, which authorities say was a violation of policy. They said officers ignored his pleas for medical help.
The van made four stops before arriving at a police station, including one that police officials on Thursday said they had not initially known about. They said that stop was captured by a private security camera but did not provide additional details. From the police station, Gray was taken to the hospital, where he died a week later. Authorities said he suffered a severe spinal injury.
Some residents had feared that turning over the report to prosecutors might spark more violence in the city, where on Monday cars were torched, stores looted, and rocks and bottles thrown at police. But with the National Guard patrolling the streets and a 10 p.m. curfew still in effect Thursday, Baltimore remained calm.
Just before 5 p.m. Thursday, about 500 people — some carrying signs or wearing shirts that read “I bleed Baltimore” or “I ♥ being black” — marched in the streets, chanting and raising their fists in the air. They soon met up with another group, and together they moved peacefully toward City Hall.
Gray’s death has sparked marches in other parts of the country. In Philadelphia, a peaceful rally turned tense Thursday night when a group of protesters who tried to enter Interstate 95 clashed with police.
Baltimore police said that more demonstrations were planned for Friday and beyond and that they intended to maintain a large presence of law-enforcement officers.
“Although we’ve had two days of peace and quiet, we still have a weekend to make it through,” Batts said.
Also on Thursday, the national response team from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives began investigating the site of a three-alarm fire Monday night that destroyed a senior center being built next to a church in East Baltimore.
The blaze at the Mary Harkins Senior Center on North Chester Street is one of seven fires the ATF team is investigating as possible arsons, said Special Agent David Cheplak, an ATF spokesman. The others include fires at two CVS pharmacies and a Rite Aid pharmacy.
In many parts of the city Thursday, residents tried to return to business as usual. In the West Baltimore neighborhood that was at the center of the rioting, some people waited for buses. Next door to a CVS that was looted and burned Monday, about 60 senior citizens who live in a building there worried about how they would get their medication, food and toiletries. But on Thursday, some of their concerns were alleviated as residents, businesses and sororities dropped off donated items.
“This is such a blessing,” said Reginald Hope, 72, one of the residents.
Some groups, including CASA de Maryland and members of the Baltimore United for Change coalition, criticized authorities for not being transparent enough.
“The public has a right to know the details of the investigation,” said Kim Propeack, director of CASA in Action, the political arm of the immigrant-advocacy organization.
Local authorities defended their handling of the case and pleaded for patience, noting that their investigation and related federal probes are continuing. On CNN, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D) seemed to lash out at people who have criticized her response to the crisis.
“The record is clear. I invited the Department of Justice in here to reform our Police Department. . . . I know we have problems, and I was determined to fix them. Don’t get it twisted,” she said.
The office of Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby released a statement confirming that it had “received the hard copies” of the police investigative file but that the results of the probe were “not new to us.”
“We have been briefed regularly throughout their process while simultaneously conducting our own independent investigation into the death of Freddie Gray,” the statement said. “We ask for the public to remain patient and peaceful and to trust the process of the justice system.”
The case is fraught with unanswered questions and controversy.
When Gray was taken into custody, two officers put their knees into his back, then dragged his seemingly limp body to the van as he cried out, according to a video shot by bystanders.
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) has questioned the cause for stopping Gray: A police document says he ran from officers and he was later found to have a knife.
Authorities have said previously that the transport van stopped once to put Gray in leg irons, another time to check on him and a third time to pick up another arrestee.
Kevin Davis, a deputy police commissioner, said investigators had found out about an additional stop — at North Fremont Avenue and Mosher Street — after reviewing footage from a private surveillance camera, although he did not specify what happened during it.
Batts has said an officer driving the van has described Gray as “irate,” and an application for a search warrant says that Gray “continued to be combative in the police wagon.”
The search warrant affidavit said another prisoner in the van told investigators he heard Gray banging against the sides of the vehicle as if he “was intentionally trying to injure himself.” But the law enforcement official said that the prisoner may have heard Gray’s body thrashing uncontrollably after sustaining a “catastrophic injury to his spine.”
An attorney for Gray’s family has disputed the notion that Gray could have “severed his own spinal cord” and questioned the accuracy of some police reports.
Officials with the state medical examiners office would not discuss details of Gray’s case.
Bruce Goldfarb, a spokesman for the Maryland Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, said the autopsy work is not complete. “We don’t do preliminary findings,” he said.
Six police officers, including a lieutenant and a sergeant, were suspended after the incident.
Keith L. Alexander, John Woodrow Cox, Mary Pat Flaherty, Joe Heim, Dan Morse, Hamil R. Harris, Dana Hedgpeth, Josh Hicks, Cheryl W. Thompson and Julie Zauzmer contributed to this report.