The family of Tyrone West will receive a settlement of $1 million stemming from a wrongful death lawsuit where Baltimore police were alleged to have used excessive force leading to his death during a traffic stop. Officials representing Baltimore confirmed that they will pay $600,000 toward the award, while the State of Maryland will pay $400,000.
Settlements of this nature are usually confirmed by the State Board of Public Works; however, this settlement amount is higher usual. David Ralph, speaking on behalf of the city, said that the city had been fighting the case in court with moderate success. Meanwhile, the attorney for the West family explained that the settlement will go to the three children of the deceased.
The plaintiffs named several police officers in the suit as well as Anthony Batts, the Commissioner of the Baltimore Police Department. Baltimore Mayor Pugh, who leads the city panel, expressed his sympathy for the family in the unfortunate incident, stating that no amount of money can replace a human life. Pugh said that the city analyzed what was the best solution for the city and the family.
Both parties agreed that the settlement was a reasonable resolution. Tawanda Jones, Gray's sister, was a harsh critic of the police in the incident and conducted vigils on a weekly basis to expand overall awareness. Jones was originally among the plaintiffs in the suit; however, she removed herself from the case because part of the settlement agreement required all plaintiffs to sign an agreement that prohibited them from making further comments about the incident.
In July of 2013, West, age 44, was stopped by officers while traveling in Northeast Baltimore. Some witnesses claim that West began fighting with the police, while the West family summarized the incident as one where the officers simply had beaten him to death. The medical examiner determined that West had suffered a heart attack stemming from an existing heart condition which was brought on as a result of a fierce struggle in the summer heat.
Commissioner Batts ordered an independent investigation to review the incident. One witness claimed that an officer pulled West from the vehicle by his hair. The officers admitted to striking West amid the struggle with batons and using pepper spray to subdue him. A former medical examiner commented on the incident saying he believes that West struggled to breathe while restrained when officers sat on him to keep him pinned down.
Baltimore has been at the center of much controversy in recent years in incidents involving the police. The death of Freddie Gray in 2015 received significant national media coverage after he died while in custody traveling in the rear of a police vehicle. In that case, a settlement was reached for $6.4 million.