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Rawlings-Blake calls for release of Tyrone West autopsy report

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake on Friday called on State's Attorney Gregg Bernstein to release as "expeditiously as possible" the autopsy report of a man who died in police custody months ago.

"I write urging you to work expeditiously to provide the public with a prompt and transparent determination of the events that occurred surrounding this incident," the mayor wrote in a letter to Bernstein.

Tyrone West, 44, died during an altercation with police after he was pulled over on July 18. His family has been protesting frequently — often outside City Hall — demanding answers. Members of the Baltimore City Council and Delman Coates, a Prince George's pastor and candidate for lieutenant governor, joined their call.

Mark Cheshire, a spokesman for the Baltimore state's attorney's office, said: "We share the Mayor's goal to complete a thorough investigation as soon as possible." He said earlier in the week that authorities were not ready to reveal West's cause of death.

The state medical examiner's office has completed an autopsy report in West's death, but refused to release its findings. Bruce Goldfarb, a spokesman for the state medical examiner, said only prosecutors, not doctors, have the authority to release the report.

"It's not up to us to release," he said. "I don't know what the state's attorney may do. We can't discuss any aspect of the case that is under investigation."

In her letter, Rawlings-Blake said city prosecutors will receive a copy of the report within two weeks, but Goldfarb said he wasn't sure about any timetable to disseminate the report.

"Please keep me apprised of the progress made regarding the outcome of this investigation, including your anticipated date of completion," the mayor wrote.

Police have said that West had a "medical emergency" while fighting officers. Witnesses claimed West was beaten by the officers.

Nine officers were suspended amid the probe.

West was on parole, and police said at the time they found what they believed were drugs on West.

Kevin Harris, a spokesman for Rawlings-Blake, said she's spoken with West's family at several community events. "What she's always tried to communicate to them is she wants the answers as well," Harris said. "Now that we've moved to a point where the autopsy is done, the mayor wanted to offer her support that it be released as expeditiously as possible."

George Peoples, West's uncle, said he wished the mayor had spoken up sooner. "That's what she should have done well before now," he said of the letter. "We just have to wait and see what happens. The family has stuck together throughout this whole thing."

Harris said the city Police Department has yet to receive a copy of the autopsy report.

Lt. J. Eric Kowalczyk, a Baltimore police spokesman, said, "We concur that the West family has a right to know what happened."

A City Council hearing on the status of the case is set for Wednesday. The medical examiner's office has said it will not attend the hearing.

"The reason we scheduled the hearing is to put some pressure on the medical examiner to go ahead and get this done," said City Councilman Bill Henry. "I would reiterate my call on the medical examiner to come before the council next week. He should come and publicly explain what the reasons are why an autopsy takes four months."

Henry said he was glad to learn of Rawlings-Blake's letter.

"I hope she uses her influence with the General Assembly, which oversees the medical examiner's budget," he said.

Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this article.

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