Despite the turmoil, there's been little new information about how Gray sustained his mortal injuries. Initial reports focused on how it was that Gray got into a van while alive—though he was being dragged—yet emerged less than an hour later unable to breathe or walk. The question has always been what happened in the van—including during several van stops before Gray arrived at a police station and paramedics were called—but now more scrutiny has come on Gray's state when he was arrested. Initially, reports suggested that Gray's arrest was a fairly routine one, even though it wasn't clear why he was detained—Gray took off running after making eye contact with an officer, and was found with a knife. Police also said the 25-year-old was not injured when he got into the van. A video shot by a bystander was inconclusive and didn't show any evidence of Gray being beaten, though he was shouting and his legs appeared limp as he was dragged to the van.
An extensive report from The Baltimore Sun suggests there are some inconsistencies even in the limited timeline police have released. Police said Gray was arrested a minute after first contact with officers, and was handcuffed "without force or incident." Conversations with witnesses "make clear that Gray's arrest and transport were perceived as being wholly out of the ordinary—even in an area where the drug trade makes an arrest a common occurrence," the Sun's Mark Rector reports. Once police caught Gray, a friend saw one officer with his knee on Gray's neck and another bending his legs back. In video of the arrest, a bystander shouts that Gray's legs are broken and he needs help. He was then placed in the van and driven away. Police now say he should have received medical attention at the scene. Because the investigation didn't start for several days, they also missed opportunities to gather crucial evidence, like a surveillance tape from a store that was taped over.
That's why the van, and the alleged "rough ride," remains central. While medical professionals said the level of damage to Gray's spinal cord—which was 80 percent severed, with a crushed voice box—was the sort of injury that usually only happened in a serious car accident, Dr. Ali Bydon, a Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon, told the Sun that it could have happened progressively, so that the fact that Gray could stand when he got into the van proves nothing. "It can be a progressive, cumulative loss of function if the spinal cord is unstable and unprotected," he said. "You don't need tremendous force to follow up on further injury to the spine—a force you and me can take because we have stable necks, but that an unstable neck cannot withstand."
Once Gray was in the van, he was handcuffed. Apparently because he was "irate" during the ride, officers stopped and shackled his legs, too. The one thing they didn't do was buckle his seat belt. Not only does that sound like common sense, it's also department policy—and BPD admits it was violated. A lawyer for one of the six officers involved in the Gray case, all of whom have been put on desk duty with pay, implied that the policy was frequently ignored. "Policy is policy, practice is something else,” Michael Davey told the Associated Press. “It is not always possible or safe for officers to enter the rear of those transport vans that are very small, and this one was very small."