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Still no cause of death for Baltimore man who died in police custody

Anthony Batts

Three weeks after Tyrone West died in police custody after a Baltimore traffic stop, the state medical examiner's office said it is still investigating his cause of death amid growing calls for answers in the case.

Protesters, including West's family, have been demanding that prosecutors and police reveal West's cause of death. But Bruce Goldfarb, a spokesman for the state medical examiner, says they don't have it yet.

“In some cases, such as with a hanging or shooting, the mechanism causing a death may be obvious,” Goldfarb said. “But with an unexpected death of a fairly young person who is apparently in otherwise good health, every avenue must be thoroughly investigated.”

Police said West, 44, was pulled over July 18 while driving through a Northeast Baltimore neighborhood, and fought with officers before going into “medical distress.” They released dispatch tapes of the officers' call for help.

Multiple witnesses have said that West was struck several times, even after he stopped moving, and critics of the Police Department allege that he was killed.

Last year, 46-year-old Anthony Anderson died during an arrest in East Baltimore. Within 10 days, the medical examiner had determined that he died from blunt force trauma. Police Commissioner Anthony Batts hand-delivered the autopsy result to Anderson's family, who released it to the news media.

The officers were eventually cleared of criminal wrongdoing.

Goldfarb said West's toxicology and brain tissue results could take weeks. The medical examiner's office is a state agency and independent of city police and prosecutors, though its findings form the basis of many investigative decisions.

“Medical examiners determine the cause and manner of death when they have enough information to make the diagnosis with a reasonable degree of medical certainty,” Goldfarb said.

“Lab tests take time to perform, confirm and interpret. When all is said and done, it may be a month or more before the cause and manner of death are known.”

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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