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US: Tensions after black man dies of injuries in police custody

world Updated: Apr 22, 2015 09:37 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times
Race relations

Race relations in the US are under scrutiny once again with the justice department launching investigations Tuesday into the death of an African American man of injuries sustained in police custody.

The victim, Freddie Gray, 25, died past Sunday a week after arrest. He had been in a hospital with severed spinal cord, an injury he suffered in custody, but not clear yet how.

The justice department probe, said a spokeswoman, will focus on possible civil rights violations by the officers, who are being investigated separately by local authorities.

Gray was arrested a week ago in Baltimore, an hour’s drive from Washington DC in the adjoining state of Maryland, on April 12. He seemed fine when he was arrested and put in a van.

Six police officers have been suspended but protests continued, and despite appeals from local authorities for calm. Baltimore is the new Ferguson and New York City.

Ferguson in Missouri state was rocked for months in 2104 by protests over the killing of a black teen by a white police officer who was later cleared of any wrongdoing by a grand jury.

A group of white police officers were similarly let off in New York city in connection with the case of black man who died gasping for breath as officers wrestled him down.

An elderly Indian visiting his son in Alabama was partly paralyzed after being slammed to the ground by a white police officer responding to a 911 call about a “skinny black guy”.

President Barack Obama has set up a task force to recommend ways to improve police relations with ethnic minorities, which, according to a report, were shockingly bad in Ferguson.

Circumstances of Gray’s arrest remain clear. According to police timeline, when he was confronted by the three police officer at around 8:30 am, he ran away. He was arrested after a chase.

“They had him in a crab-like position, where his legs were bent back and his arms,” an unidentified witness told a local TV stations. “He was handcuffed, and at that point, they had knees in his back and his head.”

But the police have denied any use of force.