With protesters marching through Baltimore streets and lawmakers pleading for federal help, U.S. authorities launched a civil rights probe Tuesday into the death of a 25-year-old man whose arrest by police led to horrified screams and a broken spinal cord.
The U.S. Justice Department said it has been “monitoring” the case of Freddie Gray, who died Sunday, a week after he was arrested by Baltimore police. The death of Gray, who is black, is the latest to spark outcry and protest across the nation for perceived heavy-handed police treatment of minorities.
“Based on preliminary information, (Justice) has officially opened this matter and is gathering information to determine whether any prosecutable civil rights violation occurred,” the department said in the statement.
Members of the Maryland congressional delegation had called on Attorney General Eric Holder to take the action Tuesday.
“Freddie Gray’s family and the residents of the city of Baltimore deserve to know what happened to him while he was in police custody,” the members wrote in a letter to Holder.
“We need answers. While the vast majority of police officers act within the law to serve and protect their communities, incidents like this degrade the trust necessary to maintain the relationship between law enforcement and communities … We need the facts to restore the public confidence in the Baltimore Police Department.”
Protesters chanting “All night! All day! We’re gonna fight for Freddie Gray!” filled a Baltimore city block and police on horseback tried to quell potential unrest.
A crowd outside the Western District Police Station on Tuesday included 53-year-old Pricilla Jackson, carrying a sign reading, “Convict Freddie’s killers.”
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SOURCE: Kevin Johnson and Melanie Eversley