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$1.1 million in police settlements on Board of Estimates agenda

The Baltimore City Board of Estimates is set to approve more than $1.1 million in police settlements Wednesday, including $600,000 for the family of Tyrone West Sr.

West died in July 2013 following an altercation with Baltimore and Morgan State University police. His family sued both the city and the university.

The city spending panel is also set to approve a $400,000 settlement stemming from a non-fatal, police-involved shooting in January 2013 which left plaintiff Shaun Mouzon with multiple gunshot wounds.

In the West case, the state Board of Public Works unanimously approved a $400,000 settlement last month to resolve Morgan State’s portion of the lawsuit. Baltimore attorney A. Dwight Pettit, who represented the family, said at the time the $600,000 settlement with the city was expected.

West was pulled over by Baltimore Police Department officers in and one of the officers allegedly observed a substance balled up in West’s sock, at which point he tried to flee, according to the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court. During an altercation involving the Baltimore officers and a Morgan State University Police officer, West was allegedly punched, struck with batons, kicked and sat on.

According to the memorandum about the settlement prepared by the city, West pushed one officer who then got on top of him to prevent him from standing and a second officer attempted to restrain West’s kicking legs. West stood up and continued to ignore orders, according to the memorandum, and West was “continually fighting the police.”

After a 10-minute altercation, West appeared to capitulate but then continued to resist arrest and at one point attempted to flee, according to the memorandum. Once additional officers arrived on scene, they surrounded West and the passenger who had been in his vehicle said they punched and kicked him. A Morgan State officer eventually placed his knee in West’s back to hold him in place while he was being handcuffed.

West lost consciousness at some point and died in handcuffs, according to the lawsuit. A state medical examiner’s report determined the cause was cardiac arrest but could not rule out asphyxiation. An independent medical examiner hired by the family determined West died of asphyxiation.

Driving incident

Mouzon was sitting in his car at a red light when he was shot, according to the lawsuit filed in federal court in January 2016. Mouzon managed to drive away but crashed due to his injuries.

The officers, who were in an unmarked vehicle, claim they observed what they believed to be a bulge in Mouzon’s pants in a high drug-trafficking area, according to the memorandum about the settlement prepared for the board. The officers followed Mouzon and observed alleged traffic violations before attempting to initiate a stop but he continued driving.

At the intersection, the officers who first observed Mouzon and additional backup officers alleged they stood on either side of the vehicle and ordered Mouzon to exit but instead he began to drive when the light turned green and reached toward his pants where they believed a weapon was located, according to the memorandum. Mouzon claims he was listening to the radio and never saw or heard the officers.

Mouzon was found unresponsive in the driver’s seat and a search revealed no weapon.

A federal jury trial began July 24 but was dismissed later that day after an agreement was reached, according to electronic court records.

Mouzon also was represented by Pettit, who did respond Monday to a request for comment about the settlements.

Other settlements

The board also will consider a $70,000 settlement with Harvey Forbes, who claims he was subjected to improper searches because police were looking for a different person; and a $50,000 settlement with Roger Cockrell, who alleges police struck him with a vehicle during a chase.

Forbes’ vehicle was stopped by detectives in 2015 and his vehicle, home and business were searched, according to the memorandum. The police concede the suspect’s name was wrong on warrants but asserts the proper warrants were obtained based on probable cause.

Forbes sued for false arrest, false imprisonment and other constitutional torts in Baltimore City Circuit Court.

Cockrell allegedly failed to respond to officers’ commands and was suspected of being armed during a February 2015 foot chase, according to the memorandum. A weapon was never recovered and Cockrell was detained for a few hours at a police station.

Forbes and Cockrell are both represented by Baltimore solo practitioner Isaac Klein.

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