BALTIMORE (AP) -- Demonstrators launched a week of protests to demand justice for a Baltimore man who died from a spinal injury he suffered while in police custody. The federal government opened a civil rights investigation into yet another death fueling debate over police brutality and race relations in the U.S.
Freddie Gray, who was black, suffered the injury under mysterious circumstances after he was handcuffed and put in the back of a police van. The 25-year-old died in a hospital a week after his April 12 arrest.
At the site of the arrest, more than a thousand demonstrators gathered Tuesday to remember Gray, who friends and relatives say was kind, funny and generous, and call for police reform.
It marked the beginning of a week of protests and rallies planned across Baltimore, including one set for Wednesday night.
"The world is watching, and the world needs to see that black Baltimore is unified," said Pastor Jamal Bryant of the Empowerment Temple, one of the rally's organizers.
The deaths of men at the hands of police in several U.S. cities have unleashed protests and demands for reform over the past months. Some of the men have been black and unarmed, though the circumstances have varied.
Gray was taken into custody after police "made eye contact" with him and another man in an area known for drug activity, police said, and both men started running. Gray was handcuffed and put in a transport van. At some point during his roughly 30-minute ride, the van was stopped and Gray's legs were shackled when an officer felt he was becoming "irate," police said.
Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said Gray asked for an inhaler and then several times asked for medical care. He was eventually rushed to a hospital.
Gray died Sunday -- a week after his arrest -- of what police described as "a significant spinal injury."
Exactly how he was injured and what happened in the van is still not known.
Demonstrators called for answers, accountability and a change to how they say people in inner-city Baltimore are treated by officers patrolling the neighborhood.
Pricilla Jackson carried a sign reading, "Convict Freddie's killers," that listed the names of the six officers suspended with pay while local and federal authorities investigate the death. Jackson, who is black, said she wants Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to know that she and others have been brutalized by police.
Across the country, in Washington state, documents shed new light on the past behavior of an immigrant farmworker who was shot by police after he had been throwing rocks in busy intersection.
The documents, obtained by The Associated Press under public records requests, showed that one of the officers who killed Antonio Zambrano-Montes had dragged him away from his burning rental home weeks earlier.
Zambrano-Montes, who in another case had pleaded with police to kill him, was sitting on the ground in January in a meth-induced trance near the fire when Officer Adam Wright found him, according to the documents.
Weeks later, Wright and two other officers shot Zambrano-Montes. Video footage showed the Mexican-born man running away, then turning around with arms outstretched just as police unloaded, prompting months of protests.
Associated Press writer Gene Johnson in Seattle contributed to this story.