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Key Interviews Released In Controversial Baltimore City Death-In-Custody Case

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WJZ general assignment reporter Mike Hellgren came to Maryland's News...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)—The death of a man during a chaotic arrest sparks outrage and several investigations. After clearing officers, Baltimore’s top prosecutor releases key interviews conducted in the case.

Investigative reporter Mike Hellgren poured through them and has more on what he found.

The death of Tyrone West–while being arrested in Northeast Baltimore–led to City Hall hearings, protests from his family and ultimately a decision from State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein to clear officers of wrongdoing, saying their force was justified.

From Bernstein’s office, WJZ obtained investigative material from the case, including recordings of key interviews.

It unfolded July 18 of last year as police stopped West on Kitmore Road. Initially it was peaceful. But a sergeant recalls officers he supervises describing what West did moments later.

“He began to throw punches. He was kicking. He tried to get up. He tried to run,” said Sgt. Daraine Harris, Baltimore City Police.

A passenger in West’s car at the time of his arrest said it turned out of control.

“They were just beating him. He was just hitting him, and he kept saying, ‘You got me. You got me. Stop hitting me,’” said Corinthia Servance, who witnessed the incident as she sat inside West’s car.

“All I see is batons and stuff. They’re just hitting him. He like kind of gets up in a daze, and I’m like at this point screaming at him, ‘Just lay down. Whatever they’re telling you to do. If it’s hurting, take the pain,’” Servance said.

The chief medical examiner could not say whether West’s death was accidental, but he said West had a heart condition made worse by dehydration.

One officer remembers seeing a responding Morgan State University officer with his knees across West’s back and says his partner told him to get off.

“‘Let him up, get off his back.’ At that time, I bent down to assist in rolling the guy that was under arrest up. When he felt extremely heavy, like it was just dead weight. And when I picked him up, his face–his skin–appeared to be gray,” said Officer Corey Jennings, Baltimore City Police.

Another police account differs.

Interviewer: “At no time did you see anybody on top of this subject?”

Unidentified officer: “No, they turned him over and tried to get the cuffs off of him, but he wasn’t moving.”

City police have hired an independent commission to conduct yet another review.

To take a closer look at the files obtained by WJZ, click here and here.

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