Medical Examiner: Freddie Gray Died by Homicide From Neck Injury

The assistant medical examiner who performed the autopsy of Freddie Gray testified during an extensive description of the man's injuries that the cause of his death was "neck injury" and the manner was homicide.

Dr. Carol Allan testified Friday afternoon in the trial of Baltimore Police Officer William Porter, the first of six officers being tried in Gray's death.

Before performing the autopsy, Allan learned from a physician in the shock trauma ward of the University of Maryland Medical Center that Gray suffered cardiac arrest while in custody in a police van and was believed to have suffered a neck injury.

"He had been in the hospital for a week," she testified, "and he had been through surgery."

He had plates in the back and front of his neck, and Allan said she could tell Gray had suffered a spinal injury. She determined he suffered spinal fractures rendering everything below the injury no longer functional. While he could still hear, see and talk, muscles and nerves below the injury would no longer work, leaving Gray without feeling.

The injury also affected the muscles that assist in breathing. Without proper medical attention, like placing the patient in a hard column and on a backboard, a patient having trouble breathing will suffocate. 

Allan pointed out tissue damage around the spinal column. She also described wounds to Gray's head that caused bleeding into the scalp and hematoma at the back of the left side of his head.

During the examination of Gray's brain, Allan noticed no bleeding to the surface but said edema caused swelling of his brain.

Officer Porter Told Lead Detective Freddie Gray Asked for Medic

In an interview played in court Friday, Porter told the lead Internal Affairs detective who investigated Gray's injuries after his neck was broken that Gray had repeatedly requested a medic.

Detective Syreeta Teel resumed testifying Friday morning, saying she called Porter three days after the incident to find out what he knew about the police transport van's stop at Druid Hill Avenue and Dolphin Street following Gray's arrest.

"He advised that Mr. Gray was needing help," Teel testified.

"He stated that he couldn't breathe," Teel said.

But in the recorded interview at police headquarters two days later, Porter said Gray did not appear to be having trouble breathing, though he did ask for help. Porter said he asked, "Do you need a medic or something?" and Gray said, "Yeah." When Porter asked why, Gray only affirmed again he needed a medic. A medic was not called then.

Porter said when the van was opened at Druid Hill and Dolphin, Gray was on the floor with his feet by the door and his head near the front of the compartment. Porter said he helped him onto the bench.

Porter said he told the driver of the van, Officer Caesar Goodson, to take Gray to a hospital. The police van then stopped at North Avenue and Pennsylvania Street to pick up another man who was in custody. Porter said Gray was on his knees against the bench at the point.

When the van arrived at the Western District station, Porter said he opened the back door and saw the handcuffed and shackled prisoner unresponsive on the floor of the van. Porter said an ambulance was called after he pulled Gray from the van and tried with another officer to revive him with a "sternum rub," a technique intended to elicit a pain response.

Officer Zachary Novak called for the medic, Teel testified, while Porter held Gray in a life-saving position, keeping his airway clear.

Though Gray was listless, lethargic and asking for assistance, Porter said it appeared Gray had come down from a rush of adrenaline.

Teel was the last of eight witnesses the state called Thursday, the second full day of testimony.

The nearly hour-long video is central to the state's case and could play into the trials of five other officers charged in Gray's death April 19. Prosecutors say Porter ignored his training and department policies requiring officers to call a medic for prisoners who ask for one.

Gray suffered a severe spinal cord injury while being transported in a police van April 12, authorities said. His injury sparked protests about police brutality that escalated to riots and arson after his death April 19.

Porter is charged with assault, manslaughter, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office. He pleaded not guilty to charges that carry maximum prison terms totaling about 25 years.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us