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Md. Board of Public Works approves $400K settlement with family of Tyrone West

ANNAPOLIS — The Board of Public Works unanimously approved a $400,000 settlement with the family and estate of a man who died in handcuffs in 2013 while being arrested in Baltimore city.

The three-member panel approved, without discussion, the agreement between the family of Tyrone West Sr. and Morgan State University. An officer from the university assisted city police in West’s arrest and reportedly sat on West as he was handcuffed on the ground.

“We’re just pleased that the Board of Public Works approved the settlement,” said A. Dwight Pettit, a Baltimore lawyer representing West’s estate and three adult children.

A separate settlement with Baltimore city related to the federal lawsuit is expected in early August.

“Now we’re waiting for the Board of Estimates to approve the other $600,000,” said Pettit.

Interim City Solicitor David Ralph did not respond to a request for an interview.

A trial in the federal lawsuit, scheduled for earlier this month in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, recently had been moved to September, according to online court records.

West, 44, was driving a green Mercedes and working as an illegal cab service July 18, 2013 when he was pulled over by Baltimore City Police Officers Officers Nicholas David Chapman and Jorge Omar Bernardez-Ruiz near Kitmore Road and Northwood Drive.

During the stop, one of the officers allegedly spotted a substance balled up in West’s sock, according to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by West’s family in August 2013.

Police later said the substance was cocaine, but West’s family alleged in court filings the department was unable to produce the drugs from their evidence locker, nor any documentation of it.

West allegedly tried to flee and an altercation ensued.

Chapman and Bernardez-Ruiz allegedly traded punches with West as well as struck him with batons, kicked him and hogtied him. David Lewis, an officer with the Morgan State University Police assisted and sat on West while he was on the ground, according to the lawsuit. West died while in handcuffs.

A state medical examiner’s report determined West died of a cardiac arrest but could not definitively rule out asphyxiation as a cause. But an independent medical examiner hired by West’s family determined he died of asphyxiation related to being hogtied by officers.

None of the officers involved was charged with a crime.

Tawanda Jones, West’s sister, planned to meet with reporters Wednesday evening. She has repeatedly called for the officers involved to be prosecuted.

Jones has stood vigil in the city every Wednesday since his death to demonstrate against police abuse.

A separate settlement with the city related to a federal lawsuit is expected in early August.

“Now we’re waiting for the Board of Estimates to approve the other $600,000,” said Pettit.

Interim City Solicitor David E. Ralph, interim city solicitor, did not respond to a request for an interview.

The case is Tawanda Jones, et al., v. Officer Nicholas Chapman, et al., 1:14-cv-02627-ELH.


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