None of the officers involved in the death of Tyrone West will face criminal charges because they were using “objectively reasonable force” to subdue a subject who was resisting arrest, the state’s attorney’s office and the Baltimore City Police Department announced Dec. 19.
“We have concluded that there is no evidence to support the filing of criminal charges against any of the officers involved in this incident,” State’s Attorney Greg Bernstein said based on investigations by him, the BPD and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME).
“We are disgusted and we are going to keep on fighting,” Towanda West, West’s sister told the AFRO. “I expected for every last one of them to be charged.”
According to Bernstein’s statement, the cause of death of West remains “undetermined.” He cited the OCME report’s conclusion that West “died of cardiac arrhythmia … due to cardiac conduction system abnormality” during an encounter with police July 18 in Northwest Baltimore.
“In other words, Mr. West died because his heart stopped beating, but the OCME was unable to say whether any one of the factors noted above was the absolute or even primary reason why Mr. West’s heart stopped beating,” the report stated 157 days after West’s encounter with police.
The report details the moments just before the 44-year-oldWest died after what police described as a routine traffic stop on Keyway Road near Kitmore Road, in a blow-by-blow description of the actions first, of the officers who responded to the initial traffic stop and then of the officers who were dispatched when a subsequent “officer needs assistance” call was issued.
Nine officers involved in the incident –including a Morgan State University campus police officer–were suspended while the episode was investigated. Each one has returned to active duty.
“None of the officers involved in this incident acted with the intent to cause death or serious physical injury to Mr. West,” Bernstein said in statement in which he voiced sympathy for the West family, who said they were disappointed in the Bernstein statement.
“There were ten officers against one man—my brother,” said West’s sister, Towanda. “They beat and killed him.”
Bernstein’s report chronicled four “physical encounters” after the traffic stop in which West resisted commands by the officers who were trying to handcuff him.
“We look to the objective reasonableness of the officers’ actions,” Bernstein’s statement said. “In other words, we are not governed by 20/20 hindsight, but from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, and the calculus of what constitutes reasonable use of force includes consideration of the split-second judgments officers are often required to make in sometimes tense, uncertain and rapidly-evolving situations ."
Bernstein said cocaine was found in the car West was driving and that “while Mr. West did have traces of cocaine in his system, it did not indicate recent use, and the trace elements could have been in his system for days or even weeks.”
However, Towanda West said her brother had no prior medical conditions.
“He was a healthy man,” she said. “We are not surprised that the officers weren’t charged. They are trying to paint my brother out to be a dope addict that was high off of drugs.”
“Any life lost in Baltimore City is a tragedy. For the past several months, I have closely monitored this case and urged that all information be released as soon as possible without undermining this investigation,” Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in a statement to the AFRO. “With the criminal review complete, I have charged the Baltimore Police Department to conduct an internal investigation in an effort to further evaluate the details surrounding this case and to hold anyone found of any wrongdoing accountable for their actions.”
In November, City Councilman Bill Henry joined the West family in calling on officials for answers. In an interview with the AFRO Henry said he wanted the family to have closure and the “answers they deserve.” He did not respond to requests for comment on the Bernstein report.
Baltimore Police released a statement saying that they “must have and will continue to have a reverence for human life. While the criminal review of this difficult situation comes to an end, the internal evaluation of our tactics continues as we seek ways to improve. There will never be a perfect solution to every encounter. We will never stop in our efforts to reform and better our methods.”