Baltimore erupts in riots after funeral of man who died in police custody

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Protesters Clash with Baltimore Police, Several Injured

(Reuters) - Baltimore erupted in violence on Monday as hundreds of rioters looted stores, burned buildings and injured at least 15 police officers following the funeral of a 25-year-old black man who died after he was injured in police custody.

The riots broke out just a few blocks from the funeral of Freddie Gray and then spread through much of West Baltimore in the most violent U.S. demonstrations since arson and shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, last year.

A large fire consumed a senior center under construction near a church in East Baltimore on Wednesday night, television reports showed, but it was not immediately clear if it was related to the riots.

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Baltimore Riots (starting from 4/27)
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Baltimore erupts in riots after funeral of man who died in police custody
Firefighters battle a blaze, Monday, April 27, 2015, after rioters plunged part of Baltimore into chaos, torching a pharmacy, setting police cars ablaze and throwing bricks at officers. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Police stand guard Monday, April 27, 2015, after rioters plunged part of Baltimore into chaos, torching a pharmacy, setting police cars ablaze and throwing bricks at officers. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
A police officer walks by a blaze, Monday, April 27, 2015, after rioters plunged part of Baltimore into chaos, torching a pharmacy, setting police cars ablaze and throwing bricks at officers. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Firefighters battle a blaze, Monday, April 27, 2015, after rioters plunged part of Baltimore into chaos, torching a pharmacy, setting police cars ablaze and throwing bricks at officers. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Firefighters battle a blaze, Monday, April 27, 2015, after rioters plunged part of Baltimore into chaos, torching a pharmacy, setting police cars ablaze and throwing bricks at officers. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
A demonstrator raises his fist as police stand in formation as a store burns, Monday, April 27, 2015, during unrest following the funeral of Freddie Gray in Baltimore. Gray died from spinal injuries about a week after he was arrested and transported in a Baltimore Police Department van. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
A man throws a brick at police Monday, April 27, 2015, following the funeral of Freddie Gray in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Police move a protester back, Monday, April 27, 2015, following the funeral of Freddie Gray in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Firefighters prepare to put out a fire at a store, Monday, April 27, 2015, during unrest following the funeral of Freddie Gray in Baltimore. Gray died from spinal injuries about a week after he was arrested and transported in a Baltimore Police Department van. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
A firefighter pulls hoses toward a burning store, Monday, April 27, 2015, during unrest following the funeral of Freddie Gray in Baltimore. Gray died from spinal injuries about a week after he was arrested and transported in a Baltimore Police Department van. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
A man carries items from a store as police vehicles burn, Monday, April 27, 2015, after the funeral of Freddie Gray in Baltimore. Gray died from spinal injuries about a week after he was arrested and transported in a Baltimore Police Department van. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
A police vehicle burns, Monday, April 27, 2015, during unrest following the funeral of Freddie Gray in Baltimore. Gray died from spinal injuries about a week after he was arrested and transported in a Baltimore Police Department van. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
A man carries items from a store as police vehicles burn, Monday, April 27, 2015, after the funeral of Freddie Gray in Baltimore. Gray died from spinal injuries about a week after he was arrested and transported in a Baltimore Police Department van. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
A man walks past a burning police vehicle, Monday, April 27, 2015, during unrest following the funeral of Freddie Gray in Baltimore. Gray died from spinal injuries about a week after he was arrested and transported in a Baltimore Police Department van. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
(photo credit: Instagram/FreshChris_1)
#prayforbaltimore
#baltimore is a legit war zone. This is beyond #FreddieGray #frontlines #war @citypaper
BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 27: A man walks by broken glass at a bus stop near Mondawmin Mall, April 27, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. The funeral service for Freddie Gray, who died last week while in Baltimore Police custody, was held on Monday morning. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Baltimore police officers clash with protesters in the streets near Mondawmin Mall April 27, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Violent street clashes erupted in Baltimore on Monday after friends and family gathered for the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man whose death in custody triggered a fresh wave of protests over US police tactics. Police said at least seven officers were injured -- one of them was unresponsive -- as youths hurled bricks and bottles and destroyed at least one police vehicle in the vicinity of the shopping mall not far from the church where the funeral took place. (Photo credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 27: Baltimore Police officers confront protestors on Reisterstown Road near Mondawmin Mall, April 27, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. The funeral service for Freddie Gray, who died last week while in Baltimore Police custody, was held on Monday morning. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Baltimore police officers clash with protesters in the streets near Mondawmin Mall April 27, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Violent street clashes erupted in Baltimore on Monday after friends and family gathered for the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man whose death in custody triggered a fresh wave of protests over US police tactics. Police said at least seven officers were injured -- one of them was unresponsive -- as youths hurled bricks and bottles and destroyed at least one police vehicle in the vicinity of the shopping mall not far from the church where the funeral took place. (Photo credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Baltimore police officers form a line in front of protesters in the streets near Mondawmin Mall April 27, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Violent street clashes erupted in Baltimore on Monday after friends and family gathered for the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man whose death in custody triggered a fresh wave of protests over US police tactics. Police said at least seven officers were injured -- one of them was unresponsive -- as youths hurled bricks and bottles and destroyed at least one police vehicle in the vicinity of the shopping mall not far from the church where the funeral took place. (Photo credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 27: People in a home look on as Baltimore Police officers stand in the middle of Reisterstown Road near Mowdamin Mall, April 27, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. The funeral service for Freddie Gray, who died last week while in Baltimore Police custody, was held on Monday morning. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 27: A protestors confronts Baltimore Police officers with his hands up near Mondawmin Mall, April 27, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. The funeral service for Freddie Gray, who died last week while in Baltimore Police custody, was held on Monday morning. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Baltimore police officers carry an injured comrade as they clash with protesters in the streets near Mondawmin Mall April 27, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Violent street clashes erupted in Baltimore on Monday after friends and family gathered for the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man whose death in custody triggered a fresh wave of protests over US police tactics. Police said at least seven officers were injured -- one of them was unresponsive -- as youths hurled bricks and bottles and destroyed at least one police vehicle in the vicinity of the shopping mall not far from the church where the funeral took place. (Photo credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Police put out a fire caused by a teargas canister April 27, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. Violent street clashes erupted in Baltimore on Monday after friends and family gathered for the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man whose death in custody triggered a fresh wave of protests over US police tactics. Police said at least seven officers were injured -- one of them was unresponsive -- as youths hurled bricks and bottles and destroyed at least one police vehicle in the vicinity of a shopping mall not far from the church where the funeral took place.  (Photo credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 27: Baltimore Police officers arrest a man near Mowdamin Mall, April 27, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. The funeral service for Freddie Gray, who died last week while in Baltimore Police custody, was held on Monday morning. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Protests over death of #FreddieGray turn into #BaltimoreRiots http://t.co/QDTGei8Ya4 http://t.co/CX2RlaR75z
Police move down a street in response to demonstrators who were throwing objects, Monday, April 27, 2015, after the funeral of Freddie Gray in Baltimore. Gray died from spinal injuries about a week after he was arrested and transported in a Baltimore Police Department van. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Another store broken into, this time a check cashing business. This is out of control. #BaltimoreRiots http://t.co/gx3nLbZK2S
Arrest just now - second we've seen http://t.co/MiFtFEMvqu
#Cnnireport #Baltimore #Maryland it's #Crazy
Baltimore #FreddieGray
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Maryland Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard as firefighters battled blazes set by looters. Police made at least 27 arrests and Baltimore schools said they would be closed on Tuesday.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake called the rioters "thugs" and imposed a citywide curfew for adults beginning Tuesday night, with exceptions for work and medical emergencies.

Gray's death on April 19 reignited a public outcry over police treatment of African Americans that flared last year after the killings of unarmed black men in Ferguson, New York City and elsewhere.

Police in Baltimore on Monday used pepper spray on rioters who had sacked check-cashing and liquor stores. Looting spread to a nearby shopping mall and rioters smashed car windows outside a major hotel.

Rioters twice slashed a fire hose while firefighters fought a blaze in the afternoon at a CVS pharmacy that had been looted before it was set on fire.

An Orioles baseball game was canceled and schools, businesses and train stations shut down in the city of 662,000 people 40 miles (64 km) from the nation's capital.

"All this had to happen, people getting tired of the police killing the young black guys for no reason. ... It is a sad day but it had to happen," said Tony Luster, 40, who is on disability and was out on the street watching the police line.

A string of deadly confrontations between mostly white police and black men, and the violence it has prompted, will be among the challenges facing U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who was sworn in on Monday.

Following her swearing in, Lynch condemned the "senseless acts of violence" and signaled that improving relations between the police and the communities they protect will be high on her agenda.

Later, while scenes of riots were broadcast on television, she briefed President Barack Obama.

BALTIMORE A TROUBLED CITY

The extent of the rioting - much of it in a neighborhood where more than a third of families live in poverty - appeared to catch Baltimore officials somewhat off-guard after a week of peaceful protests.

After Missouri was criticized for a heavy-handed response to protests over the police killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in August, cities from Madison, Wisconsin to New York have tread a careful line between allowing peaceful demonstrations over police brutality and preventing violence.

Gray's family had pleaded for peaceful demonstrations and after the looting started, pastors and community leaders took to the streets to try to prevent violent clashes between black youth and police.

Looters were nonchalant and showed their faces.

"We went in there and tore it up," said Tyrone Jackson, 16, wearing a hoodie and a thin mustache. He said he was one of the looters inside the CVS.

Just down the street from the smoldering CVS, business owner Daisy Bush, 61, said: "The sad part about it is that a lot of people from the community were up there in the CVS, stealing stuff out of it. It's a disgrace."

Earlier in the day youths threw rocks and bricks at police. Several officers had broken bones, the police department said.

The largely black city has long struggled with high crime and gangs, a reputation that has made it the setting for gritty television police dramas such as "The Wire."

At Gray's funeral, speaker after speaker before the crowd packing the 2,500-seat New Shiloh Baptist Church said the world was watching to see if justice would be done for Gray.

Gray was arrested on April 12 when he fled from police in a high-crime area. He was carrying a switchblade knife, and he was put inside a transport van to be taken to a police station.

At some point, Gray suffered the spinal injury that led to his death a week later. City Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said on Friday that officers failed to belt him into his seat securely and to give him timely medical attention.

Police have said they would conclude their investigation by Friday and forward the results to state prosecutors. Six officers have been suspended, and the U.S. Justice Department is investigating the incident for possible civil rights violations.

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