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DOJ to Probe Baltimore at Maryland Delegation's Request

Demonstrators face off with Baltimore Police on Monday as a CVS pharmacy burns at the corner of Pennsylvania and North avenues during violent protests following the funeral of Freddie Gray. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Updated: 8:11 p.m. |  Maryland Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin said Monday the Justice Department is moving forward with an independent investigation into the death of a Baltimore man who died in police custody that has fueled days of protests and looting in the city.  

The Justice Department announced the criminal probe April 21.  

Cardin and fellow Maryland Democrat Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski told reporters that Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Gov. Larry Hogan were working closely together to quell the violence and vandalism that has erupted in the city.  

As the sun set on Baltimore after an afternoon of police clashes with protesters, the two veteran Maryland lawmakers attempted to put the nationally televised images of violence into perspective.  

According to Mikulski, approximately 300 high school students vandalized private property and lashed out at police, which she condemned as "very regrettable," pointing out it was only a small number compared to the number of people who were protesting non-violently.  

"The violence toward police, toward private property and the disrespect to Freddie Gray — he was laid to rest today in an enormously dignified way," Mikulski said. "But of the 300 kids that rioted, 85,000 went home."  

In a statement released early Monday night, Mikulski said: “It’s time for calm. It’s time for the kids to go home. It's time to remember the vast majority of Baltimore's citizens are law abiding.”  

Mikulski she had been in touch with Rawlings-Blake and a school superintendent and was waiting to hear what additional help the mayor needed from the federal government. Cardin said he believed his office may have been in touch with Hogan's office.  

Neither Mikulski nor Cardin weighed in on whether the National Guard needs to be called into the city, with Mikulski instead expressing support for Hogan and Rawlings-Blake.  

Cardin and Mikulski, along with Democratic Maryland Reps. Elijah E. Cummings, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and John Sarbanes, sent a letter on April 21 requesting the federal criminal and civil rights investigation into the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray of Baltimore.  

"While the vast majority of police officers act within the law to serve and protect their communities, incidents like this degrade the trust necessary to maintain the relationship between law enforcement and communities," the legislators wrote. "We urge the Department of Justice to swiftly conduct all necessary investigations. We need the facts to restore the public confidence in the Baltimore Police Department."  

Gray died April 19, a week after being injured while in the custody of the Baltimore Police Department.  

Here is the letter from the Maryland legislators in its entirety:

April 21, 2015
The Honorable Eric Holder
Attorney General
United States Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530
Dear Attorney General Holder:
We are deeply troubled by recent events in the City of Baltimore. As you know, Baltimore resident Freddie Gray, 25, died Sunday April 19, one week after he was injured while in Baltimore Police custody.
Freddie Gray’s family and the residents of the City of Baltimore deserve to know what happened to him while he was in police custody. We need answers.
While we support the efforts of the ongoing review into the policies and procedures of the Baltimore Police Department by the Community Oriented Policing Services Office, we request that the Department of Justice open a federal criminal and civil rights investigation into the death of Baltimore resident Freddie Gray.
While the vast majority of police officers act within the law to serve and protect their communities, incidents like this degrade the trust necessary to maintain the relationship between law enforcement and communities.  We urge the Department of Justice to swiftly conduct all necessary investigations. We need the facts to restore the public confidence in the Baltimore Police Department.

CQ Roll Call Staff Writers Tamar Hallerman and Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report. The 114th: CQ Roll Call's Guide to the New Congress Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.