Medical examiner: Autopsy of man who died in police custody still pending

The state medical examiner's office says the autopsy of Tyrone West, who died last month in police custody after a traffic stop, is pending with no timetable.

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 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 media. The officers were eventually cleared of criminal wrongdoing.

Goldfarb's comments indicate West's cause of death could be more complicated, and said 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 their 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 certainy," 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."

"This case is treated like all of the approximately 9,000 deaths this office investigates every year," he said.