By Tobias Salinger: A Baltimore-area man died three days after police said he struggled violently with police officers, but his family’s lawyer said they used excessive force.
The family of Tawon Boyd, 21, will file a notice of intent to sue Baltimore County following his death Wednesday, according to the attorney. Police said five officers called to his Middle River home Sunday because he was behaving strangely subdued him when he became aggressive.
“They kept on grabbing on him and holding him down, and he started screaming, ‘Grandma, Grandma, they’re going to kill me,’” said Boyd’s grandmother Linda Burch, 51.
“I think they killed him. By them being so many, and they tall and big, and he’s small. It didn’t take all them police just to try to hold him down.”
The Baltimore County officers said they went to the Akin Circle home in the town northeast of Baltimore around 3 a.m. Sunday after Boyd’s girlfriend alerted them he was acting “crazy,” The Baltimore Sun reported. The officers thought he was on drugs of some kind, police said.
He was “confused and paranoid” and “sweating heavily,” according to the police report. Boyd screamed that someone was inside his house, pounded on a neighbor’s door and tried to enter several police cruisers at the scene, police said.
Boyd refused the officers’ orders to lie down with his hands behind his back and grabbed and kicked the officers in a five-minute fight that injured three officers, police said. One of the officers said he punched Boyd twice in the face to get Boyd’s hands off him.
The officers then held him down with their arms and legs. Medical examiners had yet to release an official cause of death Wednesday, and none of the officers wore a body camera, Baltimore County police spokeswoman Elise Armacost told WJZ-TV.
Armacost described the encounter as a “violent struggle” with a man “not behaving the way a person normally behaves.” Police are investigating.
Deona Styron, who told the TV station she is Boyd’s fiancée, said he was lying on the ground 20 minutes and had lost consciousness by the time an ambulance took him to a hospital. She also saw the struggle with the officers.
“He on the ground, five other police officers like on top of him,” Styron said. “And not only that, one police officer got his arm around him like this, punching him. And then throughout the whole thing, he’s like, ‘I can’t breathe.’”
The department did not release the races of the officers involved. Boyd was black, stood 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighed 150 pounds. He suffered heart and kidney failure before his death, according to the family’s lawyer, Latoya Francis-Williams.
She said she doesn’t yet know if Boyd’s death came from a medical condition or “the severe beating he took on Sunday.” She noted she also has yet to find any evidence that Boyd was violent toward the officers.
“Blows to the head, choking somebody — that’s deadly force,” Francis-Williams said. “I haven’t heard any officer articulate that his or her life was in danger or there was an actual threat of severe bodily injury or death.”