Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
 / Updated 
By Jon Schuppe

The family of a suburban Baltimore man who died after a violent scuffle with police is planning his funeral while waiting to learn what exactly killed him.

Tawon Boyd, 21 — who had himself called 911 for assistance — died Wednesday, three days after an early morning encounter with police at his home in Middle River, Maryland that ended with an officer hitting him in the head and others climbing on top of him to subdue him, according to police.

Tawon Boyd, 21, is treated in the hospital after he was assaulted by Baltimore County police officers on Sept. 18, in this photo provided by his uncle, Prinice Thomas.Prinice Thomas / AP

Boyd, the father of a 3-year-old child, ended up at the hospital, where his heart and kidneys eventually failed, family lawyer Latoya Francis-Williams said.

The family blames the officers — they have already put the Baltimore County government on notice of plans to file a wrongful death lawsuit. But there are other circumstances that could have contributed to his death, including a preexisting medical condition, drug intoxication and medication administered by EMTs at the scene.

The results of an autopsy could take weeks, a spokesman for the Maryland Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said.

Meanwhile, Francis-Williams said she is helping the family round up witnesses who could help investigators determine the cause of death.

"We don't want a skewed version of how Mr. Boyd received blunt force trauma and ended up in Franklin Square Hospital," Francis-Williams said.

The police account, outlined in a report in which some details have been redacted, says that officers were called to Boyd's home just after 3 a.m. on Sept. 18 after he called 911 for what seemed at the time like a domestic disturbance: most of the call consisted of Boyd and his girlfriend, Deona Styron, yelling, police said.

Linda Burch, 51, stands in the doorway of her home in Middle River, Md., Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016. Burch is the grandmother of Tawon Boyd, 21.AP

A Baltimore County Police Department officer arrived and found Boyd and Styron screaming at each other.

Boyd accused her of getting him intoxicated and secretly recording him while someone else was in the house.

The officer, who police identified only by his last name, Seckens, noted that Boyd "was sweating heavily and appeared to be confused and paranoid."

Another officer arrived and spoke to Styron, who told him Boyd had been acting "crazy" and had been drinking and smoking marijuana, according to the report.

Steckens said that when he tried to speak with Boyd, he ran to the police cars outside and tried to get inside. Then he started banging on a neighbor's door.

By then, a third officer had arrived, and they began to try to subdue him, first by pulling him away from the neighbor's house, then by trying to force him to the ground. Boyd fought back, kicking and grabbing the officers, until one of them, identified only as Bowman, punched Boyd twice in the face.

Another pair of officers arrived to help subdue him and cuff him, according to the report.

"They kept grabbing on him and holding him down, and he started screaming, 'Grandma, Grandma, they're going to kill me,'" Boyd's grandmother, Linda Burch, who witnessed the encounter, told The Associated Press.

She said the police didn't have to use such force on Boyd, who was 5 feet 5 inches and 150 pounds.

Tawon Boydvia Facebook

Medics arrived, and, because Boyd was allegedly still trying to break free, administered a drug "to calm him and prepare him for transport." The name of the medication is redacted from the report.

Boyd became so calm that the officers checked his pulse and breathing before placing him on a stretcher for the hospital, according to the report.

Boyd ended up in intensive care, where he died on Wednesday afternoon, according to police.

Francis-Williams said that in addition to waiting on the autopsy results, she is hoping to learn more from other police reports that have yet to be released. What she found most troubling, she said, was that at no point in the initial report did any of the officers describe Boyd as posing a threat to the officers.

She said it appeared from the report that the officers believed that Boyd was suffering from some kind of mental illness, and they should have treated him that way.

"Our position is that upon arrival the Baltimore County police officers believed he wasn't all there and it was their duty to protect him from himself, a third party and another officer," she said.