By Stephen Janis, Special to the AFRO

The controversial death of Baltimore County resident Tawon Boyd in police custody has led to a $1.1 million settlement for the family.

The deal comes after a contentious battle in federal court during which county officials argued Boyd’s death was an accident. 

But, A Dwight Pettit, who represents Boyd’s family, countered with expert testimony that said Boyd’s death was the result of positional asphyxiation and a brutal beatdown by police. 

Baltimore County Police were summoned to the home of 21-year-old Tawon Boyd in Sept. 2016, because he was in mental and emotional distress. After being severely beaten by police, four days later he was dead. (AFRO Photo)

“We were satisfied, the family is satisfied,” Pettit told the AFRO. “We knew there would be a very conservative jury in federal court.”

The incident raises more questions about the procedures for investigating police custody deaths; including a series of rulings that classified the death of African-American men who died during police encounters accidents, but outside experts has argued were due to excessive force.

Boyd’s ordeal began when he called police on Sept. 18th, 2016 to his Middle River home seeking assistance for a possible intruder. 

When police arrived Boyd first tried to get into a parked car, and then ran to a neighbor’s house across the street, according to court documents. It was at that point Boyd’s fiancé said police began trying to restrain him, which devolved into an unnecessary beatdown. 

“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,” court filings alleged.

The lawsuit also contends a Baltimore County EMT unnecessarily administered Haloperidol (Haldol) a muscle relaxant and treatment for schizophrenia to Boyd during his encounter with police. The filings alleged the drug caused cardiac arrest. 

Three days after Boyd was hospitalized he was taken off life support due multiple organ failure and swelling of the brain. 

The Maryland State Medical Examiner ruled Boyd’s death an accident. “It is unlikely that restraint by law enforcement caused or significantly contributed to his death based on the reported circumstances and timeline of the restraint,” The Baltimore Sun reported. The Sun also reported that use of a drug called N-Ethylpentylone, or “bath salts,” also contributed to his death.

However, outside pathologists hired by the plaintiff said during depositions that Boyd died as result of the beating and positional asphyxiation, a condition that arises when excessive weight is placed upon on a person lying on the ground. 

The settlement came after federal judge Ellen Hollendar allowed the lawsuit to proceed to trial against the officers on counts of excessive force and unlawful death. The county had argued that the officer’s response was reasonable and that the officers were not responsible for Boyd’s death.