WASHINGTON– The Justice Department said Tuesday it will investigate the death of Freddie Gray after members of Maryland’s Congressional delegation sent the department a letter requesting an inquiry.
Gray, 25, died Sunday after suffering a severe neck injury while in police custody on April 12 in Baltimore. Police said Monday that he was injured while being transported in a police van.
Protests over the African American man’s death have rallied around the slogan “Black Lives Matter,” which has also been used to protest the police-involved deaths of other black men around the country like Eric Garner and Michael Brown.
Amid the protests and speculation about Gray’s death, Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin and Reps. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore; Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Cockeysville; and John Sarbanes, D-Towson called on the Justice Department to investigate.
“We are deeply troubled by recent events in the City of Baltimore,” they wrote. “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. We need answers.”
“We need the facts to restore the public confidence in the Baltimore Police Department.,” they added.
All five members of Congress represent Baltimore and its surrounding areas. Before they moved to the Senate, Mikulski and Cardin held House seats that represented the city.
Soon after the letter was released, Justice Department spokeswoman Dena Iverson announced an investigation into Gray’s death.
“The Department of Justice has been monitoring the developments in Baltimore, Maryland, regarding the death of Freddie Gray. 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,” she said in a statement.
“The mayor’s main focus is getting to the bottom of what happened to Mr. Gray in the most transparent way possible,” Kevin Harris, a spokesman for Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake, told The Baltimore Sun. “And in a way that the community has trust in.”
On Monday, Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts said that the department’s investigation would finish on May 1, at which time the results would be sent to the state’s attorney’s office to determine whether to file charges.
Six Baltimore police officers have been suspended in connection with Gray’s death.