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Police May Have Ignored Seatbelt Policy With Freddie Gray

BALTIMORE (WJZ) – Protests continue over the death of Freddie Gray, as several investigations are underway into exactly when and how he suffered a severed spinal column.

Derek Valcourt has the new information on several investigations underway.

Protestors continue to take their message to the streets, in some cases walking in traffic, effectively shutting down some busy roads at the height of rush hour.

Crowds growing so large, Governor Larry Hogan agreed to send state troopers to help city police manage the situation.

"Still, the front line will be the Baltimore City police, but the state will be backing them up and providing assistance as needed," the governor said.

Those protestors are demanding answers:

How and when did 25-year-old Freddie Gray receive the severe spine and neck injuries that led to his eventual death one week after his arrest was captured by witness cell phone cameras?

According to a lawyer for the officer's union, The Associated Press reports, Gray wasn't strapped in with a seat belt.

Failing to belt an inmate would violate a policy on handling detainees issued by their own department just nine days prior.

The document, released by a police department spokesman, states that officers should "ensure the safety of the detainee" and that "all passengers, regardless of age and location, shall be restrained by seat belts or other authorized restraining devices."

Assistant Police Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez said Gray was secured by "leg irons" after he became agitated during the trip, but the department hasn't said whether he was left otherwise unsecured, as Attorney Michael Davey, who represents at least one of the officers under investigation, told The Associated Press.

Davey acknowledged that department policy requires seatbelts, but said "policy is policy, practice is something else," particularly if a prisoner is combative.

"It is not always possible or safe for officers to enter the rear of those transport vans that are very small, and this one was very small," Davey said.

That April 3rd policy, updating a 1997 policy that also required detainees to be secured, is standard nationwide, said Robert Stewart, a former police chief who consults with departments and the Department of Justice on procedures the use of force. Stewart said strapping them in with seatbelts is "not the Torah," but should be adhered to whenever feasible.

The Department of Justice is now launching its own investigation, in addition to investigations by city police and an independent investigation by the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office.

The police commissioner says his investigators will turn over their findings by Friday, May 1.

The following day, May 2, protestors plan another demonstration, and now they're asking for outside help.

"We are putting out a national call for people across the country to come to Baltimore to be here at this corner to stand in solidarity with the people of Baltimore," said Karen Black, Peoples Power Assembly.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference has already called for the officers involved in Gray's case to be charged with murder.

Now they've asked Private Investigator Terrance Jones to look into the case as well.

"My investigation is going to be fair, it's going to be impartial, it's going to be objective," Jones said.

A funeral for Freddie Gray is set for Monday.

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