Baltimore burns, state of emergency declared

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(A special report from the Baltimore Post-Examiner Staff)

Riots broke out in the streets of Baltimore Monday as several teenagers tossed rocks and debris at police officers, resulting in 15 officers being injured, including at least a half of dozen officers who were taken to the hospital.

The rioters were not the protestors who marched peacefully in support of justice for Freddie Gray, 25, who died April 19 a week after sustaining injuries while in police custody. The protestors honored the Gray family’s request and did not march so his family could hold Gray’s funeral in peace. The rioters did not honor that request.

Gray sustained a fatal spinal cord injury while being transported to the Western District on April 12. Authorities have yet to disclose how he received those injuries when he was arrested for carrying a switch blade in West Baltimore. The lack of information sparked several days of protests that were mostly peaceful until rioters decided to take matters into their own hands.

While the funeral was peaceful, the streets were set on fire with a police car going up in flames as well as a CVS store in West Baltimore and a local church. When firefighters attempted to fight the fire, rioters used box cutters to cut the hoses — at least twice, police said. Looting became the norm — similar to the 1968 riots — albeit centered in West Baltimore whereas 47 years ago the entire city was in a state of chaos.

Police Capt. Eric Kowachyk said officers used pepper spray and other tools as needed to keep the peace. Kowachyk described the city as a war zone. He said the injured officers have “broken bones, one of them is unresponsive. This is not OK. Right now our focus is that the people who live in that community are safe, and that our officers are safe.”

Governor Larry Hogan issued a state of emergency and called out the National Guard — amid police injuries and credible reports from law enforcement officials who are taking very seriously a threat that Baltimore gangs have been ordered to take down police officers.

Police said they received a tip that the Black Guerrilla Family, Bloods and Crips were uniting to injure or kill law-enforcement officers.

“The Baltimore Police Department/Criminal Intelligence Unit has received credible information that members of various gangs including the Black Guerrilla Family, Bloods, and Crips have entered into a partnership to ‘take-out’ law enforcement officers. Further information will be sent through appropriate channels,” according to the city police.

Officials  said as many as 5,000 armed troops will enter Baltimore in armored Humvees, and they will be carrying weapons.

“This is not martial law,” Maj. Gen. Linda Singh of the Maryland National Guard said at the press conference. “Martial law means the military fully takes over. We are not at that point.”

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has ordered a city-wide curfew to go into effect for at least a week starting Tuesday at 10 p.m. Blake said citizens will be ordered off the streets between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. unless it’s a “medical emergency or you are going to work.”

Rawlings-Blake called the rioters “thugs” and said the city is “deploying every resource possible to gain control of this situation and to ensure peace moving forward.”

Baltimore city schools will be closed Tuesday. The Orioles game against the Chicago White Sox has been postponed and several businesses closed early and may not be open Tuesday.

Hogan said President Obama has been briefed and that Attorney General Loretta Lynch “assured the president that she would continue to monitor events in Baltimore and that the Department of Justice stands ready to provide any assistance that might be helpful” including assisting in the Gray case, if needed.