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Case for reopening Tyrone West death is compelling | READER COMMENTARY

Marah O'Neal, with fist raised at left, with activists from the Tyrone West coalition, join protesters from the People's Power Assembly and other Black Lives Matter activists as they March along E. 21st Street, heading downtown to War Memorial Plaza. They were responding to the guilty verdict for Derek Chauvin. April 20, 2021
Marah O'Neal, with fist raised at left, with activists from the Tyrone West coalition, join protesters from the People's Power Assembly and other Black Lives Matter activists as they March along E. 21st Street, heading downtown to War Memorial Plaza. They were responding to the guilty verdict for Derek Chauvin. April 20, 2021 (Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun)

Amy Dillard’s recent commentary, “Chauvin trial underscores need to reopen investigation into Tyrone West’s death while in Baltimore police custody” (May 6), is written from a pretty unique perspective. She is not just an experienced professor, but also a former member of the Independent Review Panel of Tyrone West’s death (at the hands of Baltimore Police).

Professor Dillard’s credentials really lend validity to her criticism of the handling of the West matter as never being prosecuted. She rightly points out the striking similarities of the killings of George Floyd and Tyrone West along with the two victims’ related underlying health conditions. The lack of prosecution in Mr. West’s case remains puzzling to many us. Of course, being a public defender and advocate myself, I’d one up the professor: We should not only look more closely at causation (preexisting conditions versus injuries), but we need to closely question narratives offered from police.

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This is especially true where an incident like Mr. West’s isn’t on camera in plain view like Mr. Floyd’s. And when you’re dealing with cops with histories or subsequent misconduct in their files, it’s so problematic to just swallow their story whole. It’s time to stop looking at incidents like his as cans of worms and, instead, remember, as Ms. Dillard writes, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant for systemic violence.”

Todd Oppenheim, Baltimore

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