People gesture while kneeling along Pennsylvania Avenue, past the curfew, two days after it was looted and set ablaze in protest against the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died in police custody, in Baltimore, Maryland April 29, 2015. Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

A leaked police report suggests that the Baltimore man tried to injure himself, a notion that his family and supporters angrily reject.

As protests formed in a handful of major American cities on Wednesday night, a leaked police document offered one new and controversial theory into what might have happened to Freddie Gray, the black Baltimore man who died in police custody last week.

What the Document Says

The document, obtained by The Washington Post, features the alleged testimony of an anonymous prisoner, who rode in the police transit van with Gray for the final five minutes of his half-hour ride. According to the document, the prisoner said Gray "was intentionally trying to injure himself" by "banging against the walls."

As David Graham noted last week, the circumstances of Gray's death are unknown and mysterious; he died in police custody a week after sustaining a spinal cord injury, either during his arrest or during his ride in the police van, after which he was found unconscious. While the police document offers a possible glimpse into what might have happened, it also raises more questions than it answers.

What the Document Doesn't Say

  • The identity of the prisoner, which was intentionally left out of the police document as a condition for its release.
  • The identity of the officer who took the statement from the prisoner.
  • Whether there is any additional evidence that would corroborate this account.
  • Why Gray would have intentionally tried to injure himself after being arrested for a minor crime.
  • The name of the officer who leaked the report, and why he chose to do so.

Jayne Miller, a reporter for WBAL-TV, disputed the prisoner's claims on Twitter. She argues that Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts told her the second prisoner in the police van said Gray had been "mostly quiet" during the ride and there had been "no evidence" of Gray banging his head against the van.

"We disagree with any implication that Freddie Gray severed his own spinal cord," added Jason Downs, a lawyer for the Gray family. Downs also contended that previous police reports suggesting that Gray had been arrested "without force or incident" were questionable.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Baltimore Police Department announced that the results of the investigation in the Gray's death would not be made public.

Demonstrators Gather in Baltimore and Beyond

Following Monday evening's chaos and Tuesday evening's relative calm, crowds in several American cities took to the streets to protest Freddie Gray's death. In Baltimore, gang leaders and religious and civic leaders joined together to protest. While over a dozen people were arrested in mostly peaceful protests on Wednesday night, roughly half of the 200 people arrested in Baltimore earlier in the week were released without charges.

Elsewhere, several dozen protestors were arrested at a solidarity protest in New York City. There were also reports of demonstrations in Washington, D.C., Boston, Houston, and Minneapolis.

This piece originally appeared on The Atlantic.

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