EXCLUSIVE: Family of Unarmed Man Killed in Baltimore Police Custody Speaks Out
Tyrone West’s family members Tawanda Jones and Jamie Richardson speak to The Real News after Baltimore’s State’s Attorney declines to press charges against the police officers involved in his death.
JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.
On July 18, 2013, 44-year-old Tyrone West, an unarmed African-American man, was stopped and violently beaten in the Kitmore neighborhood of northeast Baltimore. He died shortly after in police custody. Police say he died of health issues exacerbated by dehydration and very high heat and not due to the violent nature of his arrest. On December 18, the city prosecutor decided that no police officer would be charged in relation to the incident.
Now joining us for their first televised interview are two guests. We’re joined by to Tawanda Jones, Tyrone West’s sister. We’re also joined by Jaime Richardson, his cousin.
Thank you both for joining us.
TAWANDA JONES, SISTER OF TYRONE WEST: You’re welcome. Thank you for having us.
JAIME RICHARDSON, COUSIN OF TYRONE WEST: Thank you for having us.
NOOR: So, Tawanda, let’s start with you. Baltimore state’s attorney Gregg L. Bernstein, he declined to press charges against the officers involved in the killing of your brother. And he also said, he said that the police were legally justified in using force. And he also made a point of noting that they claim he had a gram of cocaine on him, he was on parole, and had three previous convictions for resisting arrest. What was your response to that statement and the fact that no police officers were charged in the death of your brother?
JONES: We’ve already discussed it, and I speak for my whole entire family. We’re disgusted at Gregg Bernstein, who never prosecutes any of his officers.
And for them to say to my brother, hey, a gram of drugs on him, we know that that was a lie for the simple fact he was driving my vehicle at the time and I still have my vehicle. And anyone knows that if there’s any drugs found going on your person, body, I wouldn’t have my vehicle. You know, on that day he was going to give a friend a ride, and it should not result to him being brutally kicked, stomped, tased, maced by ten police officers.
And as far as his past, he did his time. Let’s stay focused on July 18, when he was driving and for no reason he was brutally murdered with witnesses, eyewitness accounts, who saw and could attest to him being brutally murdered. And we had many witnesses. And for the prosecutor not to look or take any of their statements and try to intimidate them is really sad. And I want the world to know it could be you if something don’t get done in this.
And we’re not really shocked, because there’s, like, 32 murders that we aware of that we know that police had brutally beaten and killed or shot someone, and he never prosecute anybody. But only reason why we thought it was going to be different is because we said, okay, this thing is videoed. We have, like, ten or more witnesses, basically a whole community of witnesses. But we have, like, ten or more people coming forth with videotape. So we knew, we felt like it was a big chance that he was, you know, promptly going to, you know, prosecute these officers. But he didn’t. He’s a big letdown, as [incompr.]
NOOR: So, Jaime, I want to bring you in the conversation. Talk about what the family and the supporters had to do on a weekly basis to get any answers relating to the death of your cousin, Tyrone West.
RICHARDSON: Well, basically, we been protesting and doing marches since July 18 at different agencies to get some answers. Nobody came to my family to say, you know, we’re sorry for your loss and we’re going to do an investigation. Nobody did that. We came out, we went to different agencies to figure out what was going on. The medical examiner office was withholding the autopsy. They released it, and it was–it’s still only half of the autopsy.
NOOR: Which is very unusual. Normally the autopsy is released within 90 days at the most.
JONES: And not to mention is just the fact that they’re going off what the police said. How are you a medical examiner’s office? You’re supposed to be transparent. All you know is you got a dead body, and you’re supposed to look at what happened to this body. You’re not supposed to go off of what the police are saying. That’s biased. Nothing about this whole thing has been transparent at all. Nothing.
And we’re still searching for answers. We still don’t have answers. And we’re talking 173 days we still don’t have my brother’s autopsy. We had to bury him without a death certificate. You’re born in this world with a birth certificate. How dare you leave this world without a death certificate?
Why do we even need a death certificate in the first place? Why were these two rogue cops–and let’s get to them, Nicholas Davis Chapman and Officer Ruiz. They initially started this and dragged nine other cops into this.
By the way, if they was tooken off–two weeks prior, they brutally beat Abdul Salaam. And this is public record. Anybody can do research. They should have been took off the streets. And it was indicated in the Anthony Anderson death.
NOOR: So, to be clear, two of the officers that were involved–
JONES: Yes, the two that started it, Nicholas Davis Chapman and Ruiz.
NOOR: –that were involved in the death of your brother–.
JONES: Yes. The first two that pulled him over for whatever unknown reason, you know, these are–.
NOOR: They had a record, a very recent record of violence.
JONES: Yes, a very recent record, two weeks prior. And then by the way, Nicholas Davis Chapman’s riding around with a suspended driver’s license. So how are you able to operate the police car in the first place? But more than that, you brutally beat a man two weeks prior to my brother’s death–if they would have been just tooken off on desk duty, my brother would be alive. We would not be in this studio today.
NOOR: Did you get a response from authorities about that issue, the record of these police officers, the complaints?
JONES: Oh, Gregg Bernstein said–tell him.
RICHARDSON: [crosstalk] response was they wasn’t involved.
JONES: No. And then when I told them and I brought up [incompr.], he said, well, you know what? I’m sorry. That’s administrative. What do you mean? Are you serious? Administrative? That’s all you can tell me? So he brutally beat, tased, and maced, but he’s careless, and you’re going to tell me it’s administrative? We know that. What are you going to do about it, administrator?
NOOR: And you brought up the issue of witnesses.
JONES: Witnesses, numerous witnesses.
NOOR: The police–witnesses spoke to police, and there’s video–.
JONES: Spoke to them. Eyewitness account. Videos. And then they kept bringing these witnesses, trying to intimidate them, week after week making them go to North Avenue courthouse, like as if they were going to recant their statements. Everybody said–I’d heard them on the news, different talk shows, of him being brutally murdered.
Now, if you’re resisting arrest, how are you screaming, please help me, help me, stop, stop, they’re killing me? Even at one point, a witness said, he was yelling “Trayvon Martin” as he was being brutally beat, tased, and kicked. If you’re resisting, you’re just running. You’re not yelling, help, they’re killing me. That don’t sound like resisting to me.
And when I asked Gregg Bernstein, I said, did you look at the–I said, forget what I’m saying, forget any of this. Did you see the video? He said, well, I didn’t really look at it. I just saw what was on the news. I said, what do you mean what’s on the news? They don’t show everything. Like, you didn’t take the time? Well, no, that’s the administrator.
How are you going to say–you basically let murderers go again. And it’s just sad and it’s a shame.
RICHARDSON: And I just want to add that these were ten armed police officers, Baltimore City and Morgan State.
NOOR: And to be clear, Tyrone West was unarmed.
RICHARDSON: They brutally–they beat my cousin to–they beat my cousin to death. My cousin wasn’t shot. He wasn’t stabbed. He was beaten. Can you imagine how long that takes in order for someone to die? People don’t understand what we’re going through.
JONES: And not only that. And for them, this–it’s a big–it’s a conscious conspiracy to obstruct justice, because we still don’t have his autopsy. They’re just lining up what the police said, and they’re trying to make it seem like my brother had this whole–you know, like he was this unhealthy person. He was a very healthy young man.
And then a simple fact: me and him just got finished eating dinner before he got that phone call to come pick him up. He had just drunk a whole 32 ounce gallon of Deer Park water in my face and had another one. And then they look so foolish. You see a Deer Park water bottle on the top of my car with these polices, and they spray so much pepper spray that you’re seeing them pouring water in the police eyes. What about my brother eyes? Who tried to help him? No one.
NOOR: Now, our viewers know that, unfortunately, incidents like this are very common in this country. The Malcolm X Grassroots movement did a report that every 28 hours an African-American man or woman is killed.
JONES: It’s open season on a black man.
NOOR: –is killed by police or vigilantes in this country. So talk about what lessons you have learned from this experience that you hope to share with others and what the next steps will be in getting justice for your brother.
JONES: The next step is we’re going to stay out here. We’re shutting every town hall meeting down. This is our time. And it is the election year. We’re getting them jokers out of the chair.
You know, my–taxpayer dollar–I’m a teacher. I work every day. I don’t go here and bust my tail to pay for people to kill people in our community, and especially my brother. So I do my jury duty service, I do all of that. And I do not commit crimes. And I will not have them done.
So we’re going to get them out. We don’t like what going on. I urge everybody. You can vote them–the same way they got in the chair, we’re going to vote them out. Flat out.
NOOR: Would you like to add anything else?
RICHARDSON: It’s just hard. It really is. And then we’re not going to stop. We’re going to be just like a splinter in somebody’s foot that they can’t get out.
JONES: And this is like them just constantly keep on making up lies. Now, all of a sudden, you wait. Now, if they would have brought out some of these lies maybe a week after this happened, even two weeks–you’re going to wait 158 days to tell us some nonsense, and now you want to take all this time to draw a cartoon of, you know, the police and how they did what they did.
But you didn’t show the witnesses, you missed the main thing, the videos, the witnesses that said what they saw. You know what I’m saying? For them to say–on one thing I read–and it was very disturbing when I know my brother didn’t even get high using any type of drugs, on one of the things on the autopsy, it said something about he didn’t have nothing in his bloodstream, and they possibly found something in his urine. First of all, we know marked metabolites–if I use cocaine today or tomorrow and they test me, it’s going to show up. Those are marked metabolites. We’re not idiots. You’re going to see that. You’re not–I don’t–a person’s not going to get high for it–tomorrow and then it just show up the next day.
We’re focusing July 18. You know, they want to focus on ten years ago with his record. He did his time. He didn’t ever murder or brutally beat nobody. I can tell you that for certain. He didn’t have–he didn’t even have a run-in with the law. He was even a model, you know, person that came out and turned his life around. You know. I’m not trying to paint him out to be an angel, ’cause none of us are perfect, but he was a man that had goals set up, and he was accommodating those goals and achieving those goals. You know. And for you to be brutally murdered and all somebody can do is drag up your past as if this justified–. I wouldn’t care if he was a killer. That’s called a due process. No one should be brutally beat, stomped, kicked, tased in police custody, period. They’re not the judge, jury, and a prosecution. [incompr.] going to take them. You’re doing a crime? Lock me up, take me to jail, and let me get a lawyer, you know, and let them fight my case to see if I need to be back in there or not. That’s nonsense. It’s disgusting.
And I want to let everybody know it could be you. If we don’t take a stand now–you all need to come out, support my family, ’cause we never thought it would be our family. And it could easily be your family. You could see they’re not doing nothing. But we’re going to make sure they do something in my brother’s case. I will not stop until I’m dead and gone. And if I could come back then and fight for him, I will.
NOOR: Tawanda Jones and Jaime Richardson, thank you so much for joining us.
JONES: Thank you.
RICHARDSON: Thank you.
NOOR: Thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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