Police in Baltimore confirmed Friday that officers involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray, who died from a severed spine sustained while in police custody, did not secure the 25-year-old in a seatbelt as they transported him in a van when he was arrested on April 12.
"We know he was not buckled in the transportation wagon as he should have been," Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said at a press conference Friday. "No excuses for that, period."
We know Mr Freddie Gray was not wearing a seatbelt in the prisoner transport van. Our investigation is still ongoing.— Baltimore Police (@BaltimorePolice) April 24, 2015
Earlier Friday, a police union attorney had indicated the six officers involved in Gray's arrest may have violated department protocol by failing to strap the man securely into the van during his arrest.
Batts said that many gaps remain in the understanding of the timeline of events, and that more evidence is being brought to light in an ongoing investigation — including CCTV footage from some of the city's more than 600 cameras, which is helping authorities gain a clearer view of what happened that day.
"The picture's getting sharper and sharper as we move forward," he said. "The timeline will continue to change."
The commissioner also said he will not step down from his job, despite calls for his resignation from the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Baltimore on Friday.
At a separate press conference, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake thanked protesters for their restraint during five days of continuous demonstrations.
Police arrested at least two people Thursday as hundreds of demonstrators crowded into the streets of Baltimore demanding justice. Activists called for more protests Friday and threatened to "shut down" the city with demonstrations over the weekend.
Rawlings-Blake also said she wants answers on why "the policies and procedures for transport were not followed," and why none of the officers gave Gray medical assistance, despite his repeated pleas.
After an officer "made eye contact" with him on April 12, Gray was placed under arrest and into a police van. Cell phone video of the incident shows one of Gray's legs dangling lifelessly as officers dragged him to the vehicle.
Witness Kevin Moore, who shot the cell phone footage, told the Baltimore Sun that police "had him folded up like he was a crab or a piece of origami."
There are still many blank spots in the story of precisely how Gray, who, according to a police report, had a switchblade knife on him when he was arrested, sustained his injuries. Police say he "fled unprovoked upon noticing police presence," and was critically injured in the van while being taken to the local station. Commissioner Batts later revealed that Gray, who is asthmatic, repeatedly asked for medical attention and an inhaler, which he did not receive.
All six officers involved in the arrest have been suspended without pay, pending the outcome of the investigation. Batts said Friday that five of the six officers have given statements already and one has continued to invoke their rights to withhold a statement at this stage.
The gaps in information relating to Gray's severed spine have persisted in part because of the existence of a statewide police officer's Bill of Rights, which has prevented investigators "fully engaging" with the officers, Rawlings-Blake said earlier this week.
Representatives with Baltimore's police union have denied that investigators have been prevented from engaging with officers, and continued to defend their actions.
On Thursday, a written statement from the Fraternal Order of Police President Gene Ryan further inflamed activists.
"The images seen on television look and sound much like a lynch mob..." Ryan wrote.
Billy Murphy, the Gray family's lawyer, expressed outrage over Ryan's comments. "We've been the victims of the lynching and now we're the lynch mob?" he asked.
Ryan later admitted he should have probably reworded his statement, but did not apologize or back down from his initial argument.
"When you're trying to put somebody in jail before all the facts [are presented] and the investigation hasn't been completed, that's wrong," he said.
The Department of Justice announced Tuesday it will be conducting a separate probe into the incident to see whether Gray's civil rights had been violated.