Maryland officials today approved a settlement today awarding $400,000 to the family of Tyrone West, who was killed in 2013 during a struggle with Baltimore and Morgan State University police officers.
The Maryland Board of Public Works voted to approve the payout to cover claims for damages brought by West’s family against Morgan State University police officers. The state had to approve the settlement because Morgan is a public school.
The city, on the other hand, hadn’t put a settlement with West’s family on its Board of Estimates agenda for this morning. However, multiple outlets reported Mayor Catherine Pugh’s administration said the city has reached a $600,000 settlement with the family, which will need to be approved at a later date.
West died following a struggle with police during an arrest in July 2013. Police said they found cocaine on his person during a traffic stop in Northeast Baltimore, and that he tried to run away while they were attempting to detain him. Authorities said that while he was fleeing, he punched and kicked officers, who in turn used pepper spray and eventually tackled West and, according to witnesses, hit him repeatedly with batons.
The ordeal reached a tragic end that day when West suffering a fatal medical incident. He was pronounced dead at an area hospital hours later. A preliminary autopsy determined he died of cardiac arrhythmia, worsened by the hot July temperatures that day, dehydration and a heart condition. One officer also said a Morgan police officer knelt down on West while he was restrained, which could have affected his breathing.
Citing evidence and the autopsy results, prosecutors declined to charge any of the officers. State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby notably ran on a platform against her predecessor, Gregg Bernstein, claiming she would reopen the case, but hasn’t done so since she took office. As The Sun reported last year, a later autopsy commissioned by West’s family concluded he died of “positional asphyxiation” from being unable to breathe while restrained.
West’s family sued the city and state over his death. Every Wednesday since his death for nearly four years now, they’ve held “West Wednesday” vigils commemorating his life and raising awareness about his death, which traumatized and angered Baltimore’s black communities. West’s passing preceded Freddie Gray’s death in police custody that set off the Uprising in spring of 2015, and was used as a frequent contextual talking point during the unrest.
Despite the signs of a settlement, the Sun’s Justin Fenton reports West’s sister Tawanda Jones isn’t pleased about where they’ve arrived. She’s planning to address it at a conference this week, he said.