BALTIMORE -- The Justice Department says it has opened a federal investigation after a man died of spinal injuries he suffered after an arrest in Baltimore.
Spokeswoman Dena Iverson announced the investigation Tuesday by the department's Civil Rights Division.
The investigation will look for civil rights violations in the treatment of Freddie Gray, who was arrested April 12 and placed in a transport van.
He was rushed to the hospital in critical condition about 30 minutes later and died Sunday of what police described as a significant spinal injury.
Baltimore police have said they're looking into why Gray was stopped and what led to his injury.
In federal civil rights cases such as this one, investigators look for evidence that an officer willfully violated a person's civil rights by using unreasonable force.
CBS News correspondent Paula Reid reports that back in October, the Justice Department announced it would be looking into the Baltimore Police Department's overall use of force. This is not a "patterns and practices" investigation, like the one conducted in Ferguson, Missouri, but a collaborative effort between the city and the Justice Department's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS). This type of investigation is usually made at the request of the city, Reid reports.
Officials said the six officers suspended in the investigation had worked on the police force anywhere from nearly two decades to three years.
The officers were identified by city officials Tuesday. They have been suspended with pay while authorities investigate Gray's death.
Gray, 25, was arrested on April 12 after police "made eye contact" with him and another man in an area known for drug activity, and the two men started running, authorities said. According to court documents, Officer Garrett Miller accused Gray of carrying a switchblade, which was discovered in Gray's pocket after he was stopped.
The lawyer for Gray's family said he believes the police had no reason to stop him in the first place.
"They've made concessions on lack of probable cause," attorney Billy Murphy said. "Running while black is not probable cause. Felony running doesn't exist, and you can't arrest someone for looking you in the eye."
The suspended officers were identified as:
- Lt. Brian Rice, 41, with the department since 1997.
- Sgt. Alicia White, 30, with the department since 2010.
- Officer Caesar Goodson, 45, who has been there since 1999.
- Officers William Porter and Edward Nero, who along with Miller, all joined in 2012.
Kim Deachilla, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, said a law firm that contracts with the union is representing them.
The officers' specific roles in the arrest were not released. Bystander video shows officers on bicycles, in patrol cars and in the transport van.
Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said the reason for Gray's stop is "a question we have to dig into."
Gray's death has prompted daily protests and a vigil was planned Tuesday evening at the spot where he was arrested.
Harold Perry, 73, a retired small businessman who is nearly blind, said he heard the arrest through his bedroom window, and a young man screaming: "You're hurting me! Get your knee off my back."
He said he heard the young man say, "I'm an asthmatic."
In the bystander video, Gray is screaming, but it's not clear what he is saying. Police have also confirmed he asked for an inhaler and medical attention.
Capt. Eric Kowalczyk, a department spokesman, said Batts met with all six officers involved in Gray's arrest on Monday. The Baltimore Sun first reported the meeting.
At a news conference Monday, officials vowed transparency and pledged to hold those found responsible accountable. Batts said the investigation will be completed by May 1 and the results will be sent to the state attorney's office to determine whether criminal charges will be filed. Batts also said he is ordering that police review and rewrite "effective immediately" its policies on moving prisoners and providing them with medical attention.
"I understand the community's frustration. I understand it because I'm frustrated," Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said. "I'm angry that we are here again, that we have had to tell another mother that their child is dead."
Police on Monday released a more detailed timeline of how Gray was arrested and transported.
It revealed that Gray was placed in leg irons after an officer felt he was becoming "irate" in the back of the transport van, and that the van made several stops on its way to the police station, even picking up another prisoner in an unrelated case, after Gray had asked for medical attention several times.