AFRICANGLOBE – A man identifying himself as a key witness to Freddie Gray’s death in custody has come forward to reject previous reports suggesting he told investigators the 25-year-old caused his own fatal injuries inside a police van.
Donta Allen, interviewed by two TV channels on Thursday, said he was the second man authorities had said was inside the vehicle with Gray on 12 April. According to a police timeline, the second man was placed in the vehicle around 20 minutes after Gray was arrested at 1700 Presbury Street, in west Baltimore.
The city remains on edge after a small group of protesters attempted to challenge the 10pm curfew.
Investigators have said Freddie Gray and the other man were separated by a wall and never saw each other. But the testimony of the second man has become crucial in piecing together the circumstances of Gray’s death. Baltimore city officials have maintained it is likely Gray sustained his injuries inside the van.
On Thursday, a leaked police document, reported by the Washington Post, stated that the second man believed Gray “was intentionally trying to injure himself” by “banging against the walls”. But Allen, interviewed by CBS Baltimore, denied saying this.
“And they’re trying to make it seem like I told them that, I made it like Freddie Gray did that to himself,” Allen said. “Why the f*ck would he do that to himself ?”
In another interview with WBAL TV, Allan said that when he was placed in the van he didn’t hear anything and described the journey to the Western District police station as a smooth ride. “All I heard was a little banging for about four seconds,” Allen said.
Asked again if he had heard Gray banging his head against the van, Allen responded ambiguously: “I told homicide that. I don’t work for the police. I did not tell the police nothing.”
The comments came as local media were reportedly briefed on the findings of a police investigation into Gray’s death, which concluded that his fatal injury was sustained after he slammed his head against a bolt in the back of the van. Police have conceded Gray was not wearing a seatbelt throughout the journey, leading to speculation he was subjected to a “rough ride” – where a prisoner is thrown violently as a vehicle is driven erratically.
On Thursday, police handed their findings to the state attorney. Police said they had uncovered a fourth stop on the van’s journey to the station, raising further questions.
By: Oliver Laughland and Raya Jalabi