Freddie Gray funeral draws White House officials, Eric Garner’s family

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BALTIMORE — Freddie Gray was laid to rest Monday before the country even knows what really happened to him. It’s been 15 days since Baltimore police arrested Gray. Fifteen days since he was taken into a police van and suffered a fatal spinal cord injury. Eight days since he died, spurring a flurry of protests and questions about what went wrong while he was in police custody. As Gray’s loved ones gather for his funeral Monday morning, they will be joined by several White House officials and relatives of others who died under questionable circumstances.

A funeral is held for Freddie Gray on Monday, April 27, 2015. Gray was arrested by police and died in their custody over a week ago.

A funeral is held for Freddie Gray on Monday, April 27, 2015. Gray was arrested by police and died in their custody over a week ago.

A group called Families United for Justice will be on hand to support Gray’s family. The group includes relatives of Eric Garner, who died last July after a New York City police officer put him in a chokehold. Protests erupted after a grand jury declined to indict that officer.

Other members of the group include relatives of Amadou Diallo, who was fatally shot by New York police officers, and Alberta Spruill, who died of a heart attack after police threw a stun grenade into her apartment during a botched raid.

The White House is sending its own delegation to Gray’s funeral: Cabinet Secretary Broderick Johnson, chair of the Obama administration’s My Brother’s Keeper Task Force; Heather Foster, an adviser in the White House Office of Public Engagement; and Elias Alcantara from the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.

Exactly what happened to Gray remains a mystery. His family said his voice box was crushed and his neck snapped before he slipped into a coma and died.

News of Gray’s smashed upper spine and the delay in getting him medical care has triggered outrage across the country.

Peaceful protests marred

Hundreds of protesters peacefully rallied against police and Gray’s death on the streets of Baltimore Saturday. But but a small group turned violent.

About a dozen young men smashed police vehicles with garbage cans, climbed on top of the cars and stomped on them.

Some hurled water bottles and other objects at police.

Others funneled their anger toward local businesses, looting or damaging a 7-Eleven, a Michael Kors store and a Subway restaurant.

Baltimore police arrested 35 people, including four juveniles. Six officers suffered minor injuries during the chaos, which ended a week of civil and peaceful protests.

Gray’s twin sister deplored the violence.

“My family wants to say, ‘Can y’all please, please stop the violence,'” Fredericka Gray said Saturday night. “Freddie Gray would not want this.”

Journalists detained by police

Baltimore City Paper said its photo editor, J.M. Giordano, was tackled and beaten by police while covering the protests.

The paper said Giordano was standing near protesters when someone threw a rock at police. Officers responded, and Giordano was unable to get out of the way.

“They just swarmed over me,” he said. “I got hit. My head hit the ground. They were hitting me, then someone pulled me out.”

The incident was caught on video, which Baltimore City Paper posted online.

And Reuters photographer Sait Serkan Gurbuz said Baltimore police detained him Saturday night.

Officers called the detention of the two journalists inadvertent.

“One journalist (Gurbuz) was released with a criminal citation, which is being recalled,” police said in a statement. “One journalist (Giordano) was released without any charges.”

The investigation

Police have exchanged criticism among themselves over Gray’s treatment and the investigation.

Cell phone video of Gray’s arrest shows him screaming and being dragged, with some witnesses saying he looked like his leg was injured.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said he was appalled that Gray did not receive proper care immediately. He also said officers should have given Gray timely medical care “multiple times” — such as at the site of the arrest and at other times during his transport to the police station.

Batts also said there are no excuses for the fact that Gray was not buckled into the transport van.

But Baltimore’s Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3 shot back.

“These comments appear to be politically driven and in direct contrast to the commissioner’s own request not to jump to any conclusions until the entire investigation is complete,” union president Gene Ryan said in a written statement.

Police say five of the six officers involved in the arrest have provided statements to investigators, Batts said. The sixth officer has invoked his right to refuse to answer questions.

And while the preliminary work on Gray’s autopsy has been completed, the medical examiner’s office is waiting on toxicology results and might ask spinal experts to look at the case, authorities said. A full report could take 30 to 45 days.

Holly Yan reported and wrote from Atlanta; Miguel Marquez reported from Baltimore. CNN’s Ben Brumfield, Betsy Klein and Vivian Kuo contributed to this report.