Prisoner in Van Said Freddie Gray Was ‘Trying to Injure Himself,’ Document Says

Peter Hermann, Washington Post, April 29, 2015

A prisoner sharing a police transport van with Freddie Gray told investigators that he could hear Gray “banging against the walls” of the vehicle and believed that he “was intentionally trying to injure himself,” according to a police document obtained by The Washington Post.

The prisoner, who is currently in jail, was separated from Gray by a metal partition and could not see him. His statement is contained in an application for a search warrant, which is sealed by the court. The Post was given the document under the condition that the prisoner not be named because the person who provided it feared for the inmate’s safety.

The document, written by a Baltimore police investigator, offers the first glimpse of what might have happened inside the van. It is not clear whether any additional evidence backs up the prisoner’s version, which is just one piece of a much larger probe.

Gray was found unconscious in the wagon when it arrived at a police station on April 12. The 25-year-old had suffered a spinal injury and died a week later, touching off waves of protests across Baltimore, capped by a riot Monday in which hundreds of angry residents torched buildings, looted stores and pelted police officers with rocks.


The affidavit is part of a search warrant seeking the seizure of the uniform worn by one of the officers involved in Gray’s arrest or transport. It does not say how many officers were in the van, whether any reported that they heard banging or whether they would have been able to help Gray if he was seeking to injure himself. Police have mentioned only two prisoners in the van.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts has admitted flaws in the way officers handled Gray after they chased him through a West Baltimore housing project and arrested him. They said they later found a switchblade clipped to the inside of his pants. Batts has said officers repeatedly ignored Gray’s pleas for medical help and failed to secure him with a safety belt or harness in the back of the transport van.

Video shot by several bystanders has fueled the rage in West Baltimore. It shows two officers on top of Gray, putting their knees in his back, then dragging his seemingly limp body to the van as he cries out.

Batts has said Gray stood on one leg and climbed into the van on his own.

The van driver stopped three times while transporting Gray to a booking center, the first to put him in leg irons. Batts said the officer driving the van described Gray as “irate.” The search warrant application says Gray “continued to be combative in the police wagon.”

The driver made a second stop, five minutes later, and asked an officer to help check on Gray. At that stop, police have said the van driver found Gray on the floor of the van and put him back on the seat, still without restraints. Police said Gray asked for medical help at that point.

The third stop was to put the other prisoner–a 38-year-old man accused of violating a protective order–into the van. The van was then driven six blocks to the Western District station. Gray was taken from there to a hospital, where he died April 19.


The search warrant application says that detectives at the time did not know where the officer’s uniform was located and that they wanted his department-issued long-sleeve shirts, pants and black boots or shoes. The document says investigators think that Gray’s DNA might be found on the officer’s clothes.


Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.