Freddie Gray Sustained a ‘High-Energy Injury’ in Police Van, Autopsy Reveals

A Freddie Gray memorial May 3, 2015, in Baltimore, two days after authorities released a report on the death of Gray while in police custody
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Freddie Gray sustained a single "high-energy injury" that officials in Maryland's Chief Medical Examiner's Office believe likely occurred when the police van that transported him abruptly decelerated, the Baltimore Sun reports

Gray's death, the agency concluded, was a homicide because of police officers' failure to adhere to safety protocol "through acts of omission."


The Sun received a copy of the yet-to-be-released results of the autopsy, which provide a detailed account of Gray's arrest. After his arrest, Gray was severely injured and died about a week later. His neck injury is said to be similar to those sustained in shallow-water diving accidents.  

The autopsy, which was completed April 30, indicated "he suffered no injuries suggesting a neck hold or stemming from physical restraint," the Sun wrote.


The medical examiner speculated that Gray might have tried to stand, but a sudden turn by the police van resulted in his being thrown against the vehicle's wall. The 25-year-old was not strapped into the vehicle, but his hands and feet were shackled, putting him "at risk for an unsupported fall during acceleration or deceleration," according to the autopsy report cited by the Sun. 

Gray was locked into the police van and then could be heard screaming and banging, "causing the van to rock," the autopsy detailed. The van made multiple stops. During the second stop, Gray was put in leg restraints and issued an identification band. 


"Reportedly, Mr. Gray was still yelling and shaking the van," the medical examiner wrote in the report, according to the Sun. "He was removed from the van and placed on the ground in a kneeling position, facing the van doors, while ankle cuffs were placed, and then slid onto the floor of the van, belly down and head first, reportedly still verbally and physically active."

During the third stop, the driver of the van, Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., can be seen on video exiting the van and looking into the back.


By the fourth stop, Goodson had called for assistance, and Officer William Porter arrived. 

"The assisting officer opened the doors and observed Mr. Gray lying belly down on the floor with his head facing the cabin compartment, and reportedly he was asking for help, saying he couldn't breathe, couldn't get up, and needed a medic," according to the autopsy. "The officer assisted Mr. Gray to the bench and the van continued on its way."

By the fifth stop, Gray was obviously in medical distress, having been found "kneeling on the floor, facing the front of the van and slumped over to his right against the bench, and reportedly appeared lethargic with minimal responses to direct questions," according to the report. 


The medical examiner believes that Gray's most significant injury—the hit to the lower left part of his head—likely happened after the second stop but before the fourth stop and possibly the third one, according to the Sun. The injury could have caused a loss of mobility in the limbs and would directly affect Gray's ability to breathe, according to the Sun's citing of the autopsy.

Police said in a court filing that a second passenger in the van reportedly heard Gray banging and kicking prior to the fifth stop. The medical examiner noted that, given the extent of Gray's injuries, he likely was suffering a seizure at that time, causing the noise. 


Goodson has been charged with second-degree depraved-heart murder. Porter is also facing manslaughter charges. They and four other officers facing charges in the case have pleaded not guilty. A trial date has been set for October.

Read more at the Baltimore Sun.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter