Reuters –Five of the six officers involved in the arrest of a black man who died in police custody gave voluntary, recorded statements the night of the incident, a lawyer for the Baltimore police union said on Wednesday.
The lawyer, Michael Davey, contradicted comments from Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake over the death of Freddie Gray, 27, who was arrested on April 12 and died on Sunday. A preliminary autopsy report showed Gray died of a spinal injury, and his death renewed concern about law enforcement treatment of minorities.
Davey said five officers were interviewed, waiving their constitutional right not to speak to investigators. The sixth officer declined to speak to them, he said.
“They have completely cooperated with investigators from day one,” Davey, who represents the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police, told a televised news conference.
Rawlings-Blake has said in interviews that officials had not “fully engaged” officers involved in Gray’s arrest. A spokesman for the mayor did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Baltimore Police Department said on Wednesday that five of the officers had given statements. The officers have been suspended without pay and the results of the investigation are to be given to Maryland state prosecutors on May 1.
Gray’s death has sparked protests in the largely black city, including one on Wednesday evening, according to news reports.
Police said the officers arrested Gray because he fled when they approached him in a high-crime area, an incident captured by bystanders’ video recordings.
The officers found a switchblade knife on him and put him in a police van for transport to a station, authorities said. When Gray was taken from the van, he was unresponsive and transported to a hospital.
The U.S. Department of Justice said on Tuesday it was investigating the death for possible civil rights violations.
Davey denied comments by Rawlings-Blake and others that the state’s Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights was slowing the investigation. The legislation is relevant in administrative cases, not criminal ones like the Gray incident, he said.
Gene Ryan, the president of the Baltimore police union, told the news conference that some protesters had called for the officers to be jailed and he decried a rush to judgment.
Gray’s death follows a series of killings of unarmed black men by white police. The deadly encounters include incidents in Ferguson, Missouri, and North Charleston, South Carolina.