A little more than a year ago, in the early morning hours of Sept. 18, 21 year-old Tawon Boyd knew he desperately needed help.

Tawon Boyd, 21, called police to his home for assistance Sept. 18,2016. He was dead four days later after an encounter with Baltimore County Police and Baltimore County medical workers. “How can you look at his picture and say it was accidental,” said A. Dwight Pettit, the attorney for Boyd’s family in a multi-million dollar civil suit. (Courtesy Photo)

He was at his home in Middle River in Baltimore County, with Deona Styron, his fiancée and the mother of his son, when at approximately 3:06 a.m., Boyd, who was allegedly suffering paranoid episodes (later identified as, “excited delirium syndrome”)  called 911 for assistance. The first of several Baltimore County officers, Andrew Seckens, arrived on the scene around 3:09 a.m., and four days later, Sept. 21, 2016, Tawon Boyd was dead.

On the surface, the circumstances that led to his death may seem like yet another familiar narrative of alleged police brutality ending in the death of another young Black man. However, in this case Boyd, who was unarmed, was allegedly brutally beaten by County police and allegedly given a substance by medical personnel that according to court documents caused, “immediate cardiac arrest and multi-organ failure.” Ultimately, Boyd died as a result of his encounter with police and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT), who he called for help according to his attorneys. The Maryland medical examiner’s office ruled the death accidental and possibly tied to Boyd’s drug use.

“He was not a criminal…no criminal conduct whatsoever, he’s calling out for help, he and his fiancée. Not only is he beaten by police, he is given a substance that they are not supposed to give anybody in that condition,” veteran defense attorney A. Dwight Pettit, told the AFRO.

According to defense court documents, “Defendants Garland, Seckens and Bowman punch and kick Mr. Boyd in his head, face and all over his body while he is on the ground. Mr. Boyd does not strike any officer back or attempt to strike any officer back, but moves his arms as best as he could in a protective position to cover his body from the attack he is receiving.”

The civil complaint against Baltimore County, the officers and medical personnel also states, “…at 3:36 a.m., Defendant Tyler Armstrong, believing Mr. Boyd to be suffering from excited delirium, administered 5 MG of Haloperidol (Haldol) intramuscular to Mr. Boyd causing him to go into immediate cardiac arrest and multi-organ failure.”

According to Maryland Medical Protocols for Emergency Medical Service Providers (Effective July 1, 2016), “Patients displaying signs and symptoms of EXDS (Excited Delirium Syndrome), should not receive Haldol…for chemical restraint…Haldol may increase the possibility of cardiac dysrythmia…” After Boyd’s organs failed he later died at Franklin Square Hospital.

Pettit is representing Boyd’s family in a multi-million dollar civil lawsuit filed recently. The defendants in the civil suit include: Tyler Armstrong a Baltimore County paramedic and Kenneth Burns a Baltimore County EMT; five Baltimore County police officers, Michael Bowman, D. Garland, Pearin Holt, Bryn M. Blackburn, Andrew Seckens; and former Baltimore County Police Chief James W. Johnson, as well as Baltimore County.

“The relationship with the Freddie Gray case is, this man was in custody, he had been tackled thrown down and handcuffed,” Pettit said. “No question, it’s more egregious, but the media (mainstream) gave them (police) a pass.

On Sept. 27, Pettit’s office received what is called a removal order, which Pettit says he anticipated and does not object to. What it means is that the case will be part of the federal docket and financial cap for possible damages awarded is removed. Pettit argues Boyd’s Constitutional rights (fourth and 14th amendments) as well as other protections provided by Maryland law were violated. Pettit also questions Baltimore County law enforcement’s policies concerning victims of mental disorders. “When they are aware someone is having mental distress, what policies and procedures do they have in place? They knew because they heard the 911 call. He’s calling them and asking them to protect him,” Pettit added.

“And the state medical examiner is saying…it was an accident. How they come up with these conclusions is unbelievable. How can you look at his picture and say it was accidental?”

Sean Yoes

AFRO Baltimore Editor