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Police release recordings from traffic stop death

Baltimore police released dispatch recordings Monday of officers calling for help at a traffic stop in Northeast Baltimore last week that ended with the death of the man they had pulled over.

The tape begins with an unidentified male officer calling Thursday night from the 1300 block of Kitmore Road, making a routine request for a female officer to come and search a woman. The woman had been pulled over in a vehicle with 44-year-old Tyrone West.

A female officer responds that she is on her way.

Suddenly, the male officer calls for backup.

"Thirteen, thirteen, thirteen," he says — a reference to a "Signal 13," which means an officer in distress.

"The unit on Kitmore, is everything OK?" the dispatcher asks, to no response. Two minutes later, the officer responds again: "Thirteen!"

The dispatcher calls for any officers listening to speed to the scene.

Thirty seconds later, the male officer gets back on the radio.

"I need a medic," he says.

Deputy Police Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez, who heads the department's professional standards and accountability bureau, said Monday that police are still investigating the circumstances surrounding West's death.

An autopsy has not yet determined a cause of death, and police may initially withhold that finding as an investigative technique as they interview witnesses, he said.

"We are trying to move cautiously but in a very inclusive manner," Rodriguez said. He said information about the case "has to be balanced with the public's need and right to know, and the criminal investigation."

At least three people who say they saw the incident have told reporters that West was beaten by officers. One said he saw an officer cock back his arm and throw a punch at West while he wasn't moving.

But police told the city councilman who represents the district that West, who was on parole for drug and assault convictions, had punched an officer, tried to flee, and fought with the officers before collapsing.

Rodriguez confirmed Monday that substances that police believe are drugs were found on West, but investigators are awaiting test results to be sure.

Eight city officers and a Morgan State University officer are under investigation. Police said Saturday that all remained on "full active duty," but Rodriguez said Monday they are on administrative assignments pending the results of the investigation, which he said was customary.

West's extended family summoned reporters to a Northwest Baltimore home on Saturday night, denouncing police and asking for anyone who saw the incident to come forward.

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