By Alison Knezevich and Mark Puente, The Baltimore Sun (TNS)
BALTIMORE — U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch met with members of Freddie Gray’s family Tuesday, part of a tour that included discussions with officials and community leaders about the 25-year-old whose death sparked rioting and looting around the city.
At her first stop, at the University of Baltimore, she met with some members of Gray’s family; they left without commenting to the media waiting in the lobby.
Lynch’s visit comes four days after Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced criminal charges against six officers involved in Gray’s arrest and transport. He died April 19 — one week after suffering a spinal injury during the arrest.
The Gray case could be viewed as a key test for Lynch, the first African-American woman to hold the attorney general’s position.
In a news conference last Wednesday, Lynch denounced the “senseless acts of violence” on Baltimore streets, and the unrest in Maryland’s largest city consumed her first week as the nation’s top law enforcement official. Although Mosby charged the officers, the Justice Department is still conducting its own investigation into Gray’s death, as well as a collaborative review of the Baltimore Police Department.
City officials requested federal help in October to curb police abuses after a multipart Baltimore Sun investigation found that the city had paid nearly six million dollars since 2011 in court judgments and settlements for lawsuits alleging brutality and other misconduct.
The Sun found that dozens of black residents received battered faces and broken bones during questionable arrests. In nearly all of the cases, prosecutors or judges dismissed the charges against the suspects.
Issues surrounding Gray’s arrest mirror those in cases highlighted in the Sun’s investigation. As soon as Gray died, Mayor Stephanie-Rawlings Blake questioned why police stopped Gray in the Gilmor Homes housing complex. He fled after he and an officer locked eyes, but Mosby said Friday that police had no probable cause to stop him.
The deaths of Gray and several other men have sparked a national debate over the way police departments treat minorities.
In North Charleston, S.C., last month, a white officer was charged with murder after a video surfaced showing that he fired eight bullets into a black man’s back as he fled. The deaths of Eric Garner in New York and Tamir Rice in Cleveland at the hands of officers have also stoked outrage in recent months.
In Missouri, the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by Officer Darren Wilson, who is white, sparked months of protests.
After the uprising in Ferguson, President Barack Obama dispatched then-Attorney General Eric Holder to address the tension.
Photo: The Hill via Twitter