Freddie Gray's Not the First to Die After Being in Baltimore Police's Custody

April 23, 2015 AT 11:00 AM

Freddie Gray gave a cry of pain as the arresting officers hoisted him to his feet. Something seemed wrong with his legs as he was dragged in handcuffs to a police van.

“Look at his leg!” a witness can be heard shouting on a cellphone video. “That leg look broke! His leg look broke! You all dragging him like that!”

But the 27-year-old’s legs do not seem to have been the source of the pain that caused Gray to cry out again. His head was hanging down, and he may have already suffered a spinal injury such as could have been exacerbated by a failure to immobilize his head and neck before moving him.

More likely, he suffered the devastating and ultimately fatal spinal trauma after he was placed in the van.

“Something happened in that van,” Michael Davey, lawyer for the Baltimore police union, said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Something like what happened in 2005 to another Baltimore man, who also suffered ultimately fatal spinal injuries after being placed in a police van.

In the earlier spinal injury death, 42-year-old Dondi Johnson was arrested for public urination and loaded into a police van similar to the one that would later be used to transport Gray.

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