- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Justice Department is launching an investigation into the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old Baltimore man who died Sunday after his spinal cord was nearly severed while in police custody.

Justice spokeswoman Dena Iverson said the department is “monitoring the developments” in the case, which has attracted national attention since video of Mr. Gray’s arrest surfaced.

“Based on preliminary information, the Department of Justice has officially opened this matter and is gathering information to determine whether any prosecutable civil rights violation occurred.”

Mr. Gray had three fractured neck vertebrae and a crushed voice box. Cellphone footage of the April 12 arrest shows the officers dragging a screaming Mr. Gray toward a police van, his limp legs dragging behind him.

He was rushed by ambulance to a hospital, where he died a week later.

His death comes just as communities across the country are pushing back against what they see as the police using excessive force on citizens. Justice Department officials recently stepped in to help the city's police department identify practices and methods that need improvement, an oversight method aimed at diffusing the tension between the police and a fractured community.

The six officers at the center of an internal police investigation of the incident include two who have worked for the department for at least 14 years, according to a list made public Tuesday by department officials.

The other four officers have each worked for the department for less than five years. All six have been suspended with pay.

The officers involved in the arrest are Lt. Brian Rice, 41, a member of the Baltimore Police Department since 1997; Sgt. Alicia White, 30, a member of the department since 2010; Officers William Porter, 25, Garrett Miller, 26, and Edward Nero, 29, all of whom have been with the department since 2012; and Officer Caesar Goodson, 45, a 16-year department veteran.

Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said in an agency-wide email that he met with the six officers Monday amid growing protests against their role in the April 12 arrest of Mr. Gray in west Baltimore.

The internal email, obtained by The Washington Times, shows that during that meeting, Mr. Batts told the officers that neither he nor investigators will “jump to conclusions” about the incident.

“I assured them and now I want to assure you; we will follow the facts wherever they take us,” he said in the email. “The facts, not emotion, will determine the outcome in this case. We will ensure that we remain transparent without compromising the investigation. Our plan is to be finished with the investigation by next Friday when we will turn our findings over to the States Attorney’s Office for review.”

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