A 21-year-old man died in a hospital near Baltimore on Wednesday, after an altercation with county police officers who repeatedly punched him as they responded to a call for an ambulance.
Tawon Boyd was pronounced dead after doctors failed to revive him following his encounter with the police. An autopsy has not been completed. According to initial accounts by the Baltimore County police department, officers were responding to a 911 call placed by Boyd’s girlfriend, Deona Styron. But a lawyer for Boyd’s family, Latoya Francis-Williams, told a different story. She said Boyd called 911 himself because he was feeling disoriented and needed an ambulance. “They really were supposed to be there to get him to the nearest healthcare facility,” Francis-Williams said. After being questioned on the discrepancy, the police department updated its account, saying: “Police originally thought the girlfriend was the caller because the information passed on to police from the dispatcher said ‘female yelling on the phone’.” According to the police incident report: “The call stated that there is a female yelling in the background. 911 added that a female keeps saying ‘Tell them hurry up’.”
Boyd repeatedly asked officers to enter his home, the report said, and asked a neighbor to call the police. Boyd told officers that Styron, who lived with him, “got him intoxicated and is secretly recording him while someone else is in the home”. The author of the police report described Boyd as “confused and paranoid”. Boyd asked officers to go into the house and find out who was inside.
According to the report, Boyd attempted to enter two police cars and then ran to a neighbor’s house and banged on the door, calling: “Help! Call the police!”
“It was obvious suspect Boyd was under the influence of a narcotic and/or suffering [REDACTED] and needed to be taken to the hospital for emergency evaluation,” the report noted.
By the time medics loaded Boyd into the back of an ambulance, he reportedly had physical injuries imposed by officers.
The report does not describe Boyd as violent or threatening, saying Boyd seemed to scratch the author’s neck and accidentally kick another officer, named Garland, “while trying to stand”. Boyd grabbed a third officer’s face, the report said, describing his hand slipping down to the officer’s badge and microphone. That officer, Bowman, “delivered two closed fist strikes to the suspect’s face with his right fist”.
Francis-Williams said: “He is literally attacked. And by attacked, I mean the witness [Styron] is describing that he [was] struck many times and struck to the ground.
“Officer Bowman is the one that when he arrived, really started wailing on Mr Boyd, meaning Mr Boyd was on the ground in a prone position and Bowman sat on him, almost straddled his back, and put his left arm under Boyd’s neck and pulled his head up in a choking fashion.”
This is not too far from the language used in the incident report, which says “officers were able to get him under control by using our body weight to keep him on the ground. Officer Bowman controlled Suspect Boyd’s head and arms by holding him down with his arms while [the report author] held Suspect Boyd down by leaning on his buttocks/thigh area with my knees and using my arms.”
Boyd’s grandmother, Linda Burch, told the Baltimore Sun: “I kept telling them stop before they hurt him because I told them they could kill him like that. They told me to go across the street before they lock me up.”
Styron could not be reached for comment. Of her own conversation with Styron, Francis-Williams said: “According to the witness, Mr Boyd was screaming, ‘Stop, stop, I can’t breathe.’ That could have been from the choking but at the same time, officer Bowman is punching and striking Mr Boyd in the face and in the neck area.
“The witness described that after a little she’s screaming, ‘Stop,’ and Mr Boyd is kind of foaming at the mouth or spitting and his body goes limp.”
According to the incident report, Boyd became so calm that Bowman “asked a medic to check the suspect for a pulse”. The report noted that the “medics advised that the suspect did have a heartbeat prior to being transported”.
The report ends with a redacted list of minor injuries sustained by the officers. Boyd ended up in intensive care.
Though an autopsy has not been released, Francis-Williams said there was “swelling on the brain and fluid on the brain because the doctors attempted to drain that.
“My understanding is his kidneys end up failing and at some point, his heart stops,” she said.
Police officials said the autopsy report could take as long as a month to complete.