Baltimore police release new details of two in-custody deaths

BALTIMORE, Md. - The family of Tyrone West has been waiting nearly five months for the State Medical Examiner to release information about what caused his death in police custody back in July.

And on the same day the medical examiner did release some of that information, Baltimore City's police commissioner announced that he had formed an independent commission to study another death in police custody from last year.

There have been protests and calls for change since the death of Tyrone West on the evening of July 18th.

Nearly five months later the Baltimore City State's Attorney released a statement, which read in part:  "Based on the autopsy and forensic examination, the OCME has concluded that Mr. West's death was caused from cardiac arrhythmia due to cardiac conduction system abnormality complicated by dehydration during police restraint.  The manner of death could not be determined because of an inability to determine the absolute relative contribution of each of the described factors that caused Mr. West's death."

"I hate to use the words, but it seems like a bunch of mumbo jumbo, which is written in such a way as to try to release or protect the officers from any type of liability," said A. Dwight Pettit, an attorney working with the West family.

He said Tyrone West had no heart problem -- and even if he did:  "It would still seem to me that the causation for him to have any type of cardiac episode would stem from the fact that the man was being beaten," Pettit said.

Members of Tyrone West's family have cited the death of Anthony Anderson back in September of 2012 -- also in police custody -- in their protests.

The medical examiner did rule Anderson's death was a homicide, but the state's attorney did not charge any of the officers involved.

Tuesday afternoon Baltimore City Police Commissioner Anthony Batts announced that in July -- the same month as West's death -- he had put together an independent commission to investigate the death of Anthony Anderson.

"It had nothing to do with any other case other than focusing on Anthony Anderson and making sure that we were in alignment and that we were being transparent to our community," Batts said.

The commission's report confirmed what witnesses told ABC2 News after the incident; that an officer grabbed Anderson from behind and slammed him to the ground.  He died at Johns Hopkins Hospital a short time later.

The panel called for changes in the way future deaths-in-custody should be handled, but the members also found that the officers acted within their authority.

"When you look at the totality of the circumstances in this case it's clear to me that there was no crime that was committed here," said Chief David Mitchell of the University of Maryland Police Department, and a member of the panel.

Members of the Baltimore City Council have been calling for a hearing to try to determine what's taken so long to find out what happened to Tyrone West.  That hearing is scheduled for Wednesday night at five o'clock.

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