As protests continue calling for answers in the death of Freddie Gray, the Baltimore man whose spine was severed during a police encounter, a civil rights group is planning to launch an independent probe, citing a lack of trust in law enforcement.
The U.S. Southern Christian Leadership Conference will investigate the 25-year-old’s death, according to Reuters. Gray died days after an April 12 arrest from a severe spinal cord injury. It is unclear how or when he sustained the injury.
Gray also suffered from a crushed voice box, his family says.
Cortly Witherspoon, head of the Baltimore chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said the SCLC had hired Cherry Hill, New Jersey, investigator Terence Jones to look into Gray’s death.
“We’re here to fight for justice for Freddie Gray,” Witherspoon said on the street corner where Gray was arrested. He said Baltimore residents had no faith in the ability of city police to investigate themselves and officers had not asked local residents about Gray’s death.
Initial reports indicate Gray fled from the officers when they approached him. According to a police report, they found a switchblade knife in his pocket. Video taken by a bystander shows Gray howling in pain as he is handcuffed and taken into the van.
When he emerged from the van, he was unresponsive. Hundreds of protesters took to the streets this week to demand answers. Thursday evening saw the arrest of at least two demonstrators following a scuffle between police and residents of the mostly-Black city of Baltimore.
The two protesters were taken into custody for disorderly conduct and destroying property, the Huffington Post writes.
Some protestors reportedly threw water bottles and other objects at cops along their route from City Hall to Inner Harbor, culminating in a standoff behind barricades at the Western District police station.
The arrests come just a day after the president of the Baltimore police union compared the protesters to a “lynch mob.”
— john cotton (@whynotyou21244) April 23, 2015
Protesters in downtown Baltimore being led by Pastor West chanting “murder” https://t.co/QHw3OEGRr4
— Oliver Laughland (@oliverlaughland) April 23, 2015
— Brandon Longo (@brandonlongo) April 23, 2015
Gene Ryan tried to clarify his comments, telling reporters that he should’ve “reworded” the statement.
Police are set to conclude their investigation by May 1. The six officers involved in the arrest have been suspended without pay pending an investigation.