Tawon Boyd, a 21-year-old Baltimore County man, died after an encounter with police in Middle River last September.
Tawon Boyd, a 21-year-old Baltimore County man, died after an encounter with police in Middle River last September. (Family photo / HANDOUT)

The family of a Middle River man who died days after an encounter with Baltimore County police filed a lawsuit against several officers, a paramedic and an EMT who responded to his home last year.

The lawsuit alleges that the officers used excessive force against Tawon Boyd, 21, and that paramedics gave him an antipsychotic drug that contributed to his death.

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Boyd called 911 for help on Sept. 18, 2016 and ended up in a physical struggle with police officers at his home in the first block of Akin Circle. He died at a hospital three days later

"[T]hese individual police officer defendants assaulted and battered Tawon Boyd while he was restrained by handcuffs and in custody resulting in his severe injuries and trauma to his body contributing to his death, and otherwise used excessive force and unwarranted force," said the complaint brought by Boyd's mother, Martha Boyd, and the mother of his son, Deona Styron.

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It also alleges the medical team violated state law by giving Boyd the antipsychotic drug Haldol, causing him to go into cardiac arrest and organ failure.

The officers accused are Michael Bowman, D. Garland, Pearin D. Holt, and Bryn M. Blackburn, Andrew Seckens. Also named in the lawsuit are Tyler Armstrong, a paramedic and Kenneth Burns, an EMT.

"After some investigation, we decided that there were two basic reasons for Mr. Boyd's death — one, the beating that he incurred and two, the medical treatment that he received," said A. Dwight Pettit, an attorney for the family.

"The irony about this case is that he was not in any way violent" and wasn't doing anything that warranted a violent response, Pettit said. Boyd, he said, was the one who called police for help.

A county spokeswoman and police department spokesman declined to comment on the lawsuit, citing policy that prohibits them from discussing pending litigation. The officers, paramedic and EMT did not have lawyers listed in online court records.

Police initially said Styron called 911 around 3 a.m. on Sept. 18. But the department later identified Boyd as the caller, who asked for police to respond to his home. When officers arrived, police said Boyd was sweating heavily and "appeared to be consumed and paranoid." Styron told the officers that he had been drinking and smoking marijuana and that Boyd was acting "crazy."

When officers tried to talk to him, they said Boyd began screaming and tried to get into police cars, and that he did not comply with their orders.

Death of Middle River man Tawon Boyd after police confrontation ruled accidental

The death of a Middle River man days after an encounter with Baltimore County police and fire personnel in September has been ruled accidental.

The lawsuit said Boyd did not attempt to strike the officers, and that he was not violent or agitated but that three officers— Garland, Seckens and Bowman — grabbed Boyd, and then "threw him to the ground and tackled him."

The three officers then punched and kicked Boyd while he was on the ground, the lawsuit said. Boyd then "accidentally swatted" Bowman's radio and badge, causing the officer to repeatedly punch him in the face.

At 3:38 a.m., the medical personnel arrived and Armstrong administered the antipsychotic, which caused Boyd to go into cardiac arrest and organ failure, the complaint says.

An autopsy found that Boyd's death was likely caused by drugs, and "unlikely that restraint by law enforcement caused or significantly contributed to his death. The drug (N-Ethylpentylone), a type of synthetic cathinone, which is commonly referred to as "bath salts," was found in his body. The medical examiner's office ruled his death accidental.

The lawsuit also names former county police Chief Jim Johnson, who "chose not to issue orders prohibiting the conduct which directly and foreseeable cause serious injury to and contributed to the death of Tawon Boyd."

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"There have been numerous examples in recent years of the Baltimore County Police officers' use excessive force, unlawful use of force, blatant violations of constitutionally protected rights, shootings and brutally beating citizens to death or near death," the complaint says, and names incidents including the death of Korryn Gaines in August 2016.

The lawsuit is asking for $5 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages.

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