BALTIMORE — The six Baltimore police officers suspended after a man suffered serious spinal injuries while in custody should tell the public what happened, an attorney for the man’s family said at his funeral Monday.
Bill Murphy’s remarks about the officers drew a standing ovation at the funeral of 25-year-old Freddie Gray with thousands in attendance. Gray died April 19, days after his encounter with police. The 2,500-capacity New Shiloh Baptist church was filled with mourners, many of whom filed past Gray’s casket before the service began.
Gray was black and the race of the officers involved has not been disclosed. His death came amid a national debate about the deaths of black men at the hands of police.
“This is our moment to get at truth. This is our moment to get it right,” Murphy said.
While the funeral was underway, police said in a news release that the department had received a “credible threat” that three notoriously violent gangs are now working together to “take out” law enforcement officers. Gray’s death has heightened tensions between residents and the police, with weekend protests at times turning violent.
A small group of mourners started lining up about two hours ahead of Monday’s funeral. As they began filing into the church, the white casket with Gray’s body was opened, flanked by floral arrangements. A rope was placed in front of the casket to prevent people from getting too close. One person used a cellphone to take a photo of the body.
Placed atop Gray’s body was a white pillow with a screened picture of him. A projector aimed at two screens on the walls showed the words “Black Lives Matter & All Lives Matter.”
Erica Garner, 24, the daughter of Eric Garner, who died in New York police custody, attended Gray’s funeral. She said she came after seeing video of Gray’s arrest, which she said reminded her of her father’s shouts that he could not breathe when he was being arrested on a city street.
“It’s like there is no accountability, no justice,” she said. “It’s like we’re back in the ’50s, back in the Martin Luther King days. When is our day to be free going to come?”
Gray’s death has prompted near-daily demonstrations. He was arrested one week before he died when officers chased him through a West Baltimore neighborhood and dragged him into a police van.
Police said Gray was arrested after he made eye contact with officers and ran away. Officers held him down, handcuffed him and loaded him into the van. While inside, he became irate and leg cuffs were put on him, police have said.
Gray asked for medical help several times, beginning before he was placed in the van. After a 30-minute ride that included three stops, paramedics were called.
Authorities have not explained how or when Gray’s spine was injured.
At a church service earlier Sunday, Pastor Jamal Bryant told churchgoers, including members of Gray’s family, at Empowerment Temple AME Church that “somebody is going to have to pay” for Gray’s death.
Bryant told churchgoers that if “you’re black in America your life is always under threat.” Bryant also talked about violence that erupted Saturday night during what began as a peaceful demonstration attended by more than a thousand people.
Some 34 people were arrested, according to Baltimore Police Department, and six police officers sustained minor injuries.
Earlier Sunday, J.M. Giordano — a photo editor at Baltimore’s City Paper — said Baltimore police beat him as he covered one of the protests in west Baltimore. A video posted to the newspaper’s website Sunday shows at least two police officers in riot gear hitting and kicking Giordano as the person filming screams, “He’s a photographer! He’s press!”
Sait Serkan Gurbuz, a photographer with Reuters, said police detained him as he was shooting photographs of the scuffle. He declined to comment further. A statement from Reuters said police also cited Gurbuz for failure to obey orders.
“We hope that the department will dismiss the citation and, going forward, respect the First Amendment right of the press to lawfully take images in the public interest,” Reuters said.
Story by the Associated Press