Riot-Rocked Baltimore Is First Stop for New AG

     BALTIMORE (CN) – Newly confirmed U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch met with the family of Freddie Gray, whose death sparked riots in Baltimore, in her visit to the city Tuesday.
     Lynch’s confirmation ceremony last week in Washington occurred as Gray’s funeral devolved into a night of violence and looting.
     Gray, 25, had succumbed to a spinal-cord injury he suffered during his arrest by Baltimore police on April 12. Video of the arrest shot by a bystander shows Gray dragging his feet while police put him in a van.
     The state’s attorney for Baltimore capped off the week of unrest last week by filing murder, involuntary-manslaughter charges and assault charges against six of Gray’s arresting officers.
     Lynch, the first black woman to serve as U.S. attorney general, visited Baltimore Tuesday as her first trip since being sworn in.
     “We lost a young man’s life and it begins to represent so many things,” Lynch said after a closed-door meeting with Gray’s family at the University of Baltimore.
     In northwest Baltimore, where the riots last week were most visible, more than 200 businesses were damaged and looted, 20 police officers were injured and more than 200 people were arrested. Gov. Larry Hogan called out 5,000 members of the National Guard to aid police, and Mayor Stephanie Rawlins-Blake instituted a curfew.
     Lynch called on citizens to put an end to such “senseless acts of violence,” calling these acts “counterproductive to the ultimate goal here, which is developing a respectful conversation within the Baltimore community and across the nation about how our police officers interact with the residents are charged to serve and protect.”
     Lynch met privately with Police Commissioner Anthony Batts and pledged the help of Department of Justice in helping the city move forward, with an improved police force.
     “We’re here to hold your hands and provide support,” Lynch said. “We are here to help you work through these struggles.”
     Lynch also spoke of the ongoing collaborative reform underway to curb abuses in the Baltimore Police Department in a visit with Rawlings-Blake at City Hall.
     Baltimore actually initiated the DOJ-led effort after a rash of abuse cases by police.
     Likening the relationship between police and the community to a marriage, Rawlings-Blake said, “We can’t afford to fail.”
     The Justice Department noted that Lynch, the former top federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, N.Y., was joined on the trip by Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta; Ronald Davis, director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services; Grande Lum, director of the Community Relations Service.

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