BALTIMORE — Murky details continue to trickle in about the 45 minutes or so that 25-year-old Freddie Gray spent in the back of a police wagon. A fellow prisoner, who says he was in the same transport but separated from Gray by a metal barrier, said in an interview Thursday that he heard noises coming from the other side of the partition.
“All I heard was a little banging for like four seconds,” 22-year-old Donta Allen told local NBC affiliate WBAL in an interview with reporter Jayne Miller. ”I just heard a little banging.”
Unofficial reports paint a conflicting picture of the events leading up to Gray’s death. On Thursday, local Washington, D.C., news station WJLA, citing anonymous law enforcement sources, reported that the preliminary findings of the medical examiner’s office indicate Gray suffered a fatal injury when he collided with the back of the police van in which he was being transported. The sources told WJLA that Gray apparently broke his neck and that the injury matches a bolt in the back of the van.
Gray was not secured in a seat belt while in the van, according to police. He “should have received medical attention and did not,” Deputy Commissioner Kevin Davis said Friday.
Allen’s account differs from the one reported by The Washington Post, based on the testimony of an anonymous fellow prisoner who reportedly told investigators he could hear Gray “banging against the walls” of the van and believed Gray “was intentionally trying to injure himself.” Because police have said only two prisoners were in the van during that time, Allen appears to be the anonymous prisoner.
“I told homicide that,” Allen told WBAL when asked whether he had told police he heard Gray banging his head against the van. “I don’t work for the police. I didn’t tell the police nothing.” He also told WBAL that when the police transport reached a West Baltimore police station, he could tell Gray was unconscious. ”They were calling his name, ‘Mr. Gray, Mr. Gray, and he wasn’t responsive,” Allen said.
Gray’s death was the impetus for a series of protests that first began two weeks ago, building to a violent climax on Monday. Hundreds of protesters again took to the streets of Baltimore Thursday evening, 18 days after Gray was arrested for allegedly carrying a switchblade and 11 days after the 25-year-old died of an unexplained spinal cord injury sustained while in police custody. The crowd was energized as the marchers converged downtown, cheering and chanting despite the rain.
Some among them talked about the day’s revelations, including the announcement that the Baltimore Police Department had handed over its investigation of Gray’s arrest to the state attorney’s office and failed to make its findings public.
“Until we find out more information, we just don’t know what happened,” a protester who called himself A.G. told msnbc as marchers made their way from West Baltimore to the steps of City Hall. “One thing we know for sure though is that Freddie Gray is dead and he shouldn’t be.”
As dusk fell, a large crowd gathered by a CVS that was looted and set afire earlier in the week, a handful of protesters drifting into the street and obstructing traffic as a line of police looked on. A police helicopter drifted back and forth above, shining its light on the scene below and issuing calls over a megaphone for people to clear the street for their own safety.
A nightly 10 p.m.-to-5 a.m. curfew continues in Baltimore, where days of largely peaceful protest exploded into a night of mayhem and rioting Monday.
Protests have since spread to other cities across the United States, including New York, which saw more than 100 people arrested Wednesday night after clashes with police. In Philadelphia, several hundred marched Thursday evening in a massive show of solidarity with protesters in Baltimore that grew larger and sometimes confrontational as the night wore on.
Back in Baltimore, police with bullhorns warned protesters to disperse as the nightly curfew approached and the assembled crowd began to thin.
“We still have a weekend to make it through,” Police Commissioner Anthony Batts told reporters Thursday evening when asked about lifting the curfew following two days of relative calm. “Our focus is on security,” he added, saying the curfew will continue throughout the weekend. The American Civil Liberties Union has asked Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to end the curfew, which it says comes “at the expense of Baltimore residents’ constitutional freedoms,” including protesters’ ability to exercise their First Amendment rights.
A number of larger marches and rallies nationwide are set for the weekend, and demonstrations are expected to continue throughout the week in Baltimore as protesters press for answers that police have yet to provide as the state attorney’s office takes over.
“This does not mean the investigation is over,” Batts said during an earlier press conference Thursday. “If new evidence if found, we will follow it. If new direction is given by the state attorney, we will obey it.” The decision of whether or not to charge the six officers suspended for their involvement in Gray’s arrest now lies with state attorney Marilyn Mosby.
“I really wish that we could tell everyone everything that happened,” Capt. Eric Kowalczyk said in a separate press conference Thursday evening.
Police say Gray was first taken into custody after officers made eye contact with him and Gray ran away and the officers gave chase. A charging document obtained by msnbc shows Gray “fled unprovoked upon noticing police presence,” according to Officer G. Miller.
“This officer noticed a knife clipped to the inside of his front right pants pocket. The defendant was arrested without force or incident. The knife was recovered by this officer and found to be a spring-assisted, one hand-operated knife.”
Cell phone video shot by a witness shows Gray’s legs appear limp as he’s placed into the van. While in the vehicle, Gray “suffered a medical emergency and was immediately transported to shock trauma,” the police document continues. Police have said the van made multiple stops, including once when officers put leg shackles on Gray, and once to pick up another person.
Additional reporting by msnbc’s Rachel Kleinman and NBC News’ Jon Schuppe.