Shooting victim’s uncle rips re-charged transit officer
Detroit — The family of 26-year-old Jordan West-Morson said it hopes for justice after charges were refiled against a Detroit transit officer accused in the man’s shooting death last year at a gas station on the city’s east side.
“I won’t rest ... until my nephew has his day in court,” said Boyd Morson, West-Morson’s uncle. “I will make sure he has his day in court and Robert Tyus is put behind bars.”
Tyus, 53, a transit officer with the Detroit Department of Transportation, waived his preliminary exam Thursday. He was arraigned last week, when a plea of not guilty was entered by his attorney, Arnold Reed, and bond was set at $25,000.
He was charged in September 2013 with manslaughter and felony firearm after he fatally shot West-Morson during a scuffle on May 1, 2013, at a gas station on the 15000 block of East Eight Mile.
Those charges were dropped before trial.
“All of his actions (that night) conformed with self-defense,” Reed said Thursday. “All of his actions were within departmental and police procedure.”
Morson, who lives in Minnesota, said he came to Detroit last year to push for prosecution and has returned now that Tyus has been charged again.
“I am the one who went to the prosecutor’s office; I am the one who went to the police department,” said Morson, 52. “I’m back here again because this is not going to go unnoticed.”
Morson said his nephew had been pursuing a music career and was selling CDs at the gas station near Eight Mile and Gratiot when he got into a physical altercation with Tyus.
Tyus was at the gas station waiting with a friend for a tow truck, according to his attorney.
“It started over (West-Morson) innocently selling some CDs,” Morson said. “But Robert Tyus took it to another level and pretended that he could arrest my nephew.”
Tyus identified himself as a transit officer after declining to buy CDs from West-Morson, but he did not threaten to make an arrest, according to his attorney.
Morson said the identification was unnecessary.
“He’s off-duty. He can’t arrest my nephew or anybody out there,” he said. “What jurisdiction does he have to even introduce his title to my nephew?”
According to Reed, the confrontation turned deadly when the officer identified himself.
“Then all hell broke loose,” he said after the arraignment last week. “According to witnesses, this young man went wild. He started cursing … and went into the gas station saying he’s going to kill Mr. Tyus.”
Reed said West-Morson was “two or three times the legal limit on alcohol” and had marijuana in his system when he died.
Tyus called police “at least two or three times,” according to Reed. Officers arrived after West-Morson had fled the scene. When the police left, West-Morson returned to the gas station and hit Tyus on the head with “a hard object,” Reed said.
“Mr. Tyus suffered bruises, he had blood on his face, his clothes were ripped,” he said.
West-Morson was advancing on Tyus again when the officer fired a single shot, according to Reed. West-Morson was pronounced dead upon arrival at a hospital.
But Morson said Tyus’ bloody face and torn clothes were signs of a fight, not an attack by West-Morson.
“My nephew’s clothes were torn as well, that’s typical of a fistfight,” he said. “What isn’t typical is for someone to pull out a revolver, a city-issued weapon, point and aim it and deliberately pull the trigger.”
Morson said Tyus escalated the altercation.
“He brought a gun to a fistfight,” he said.
Reed said following the arraignment last week that uproar over the deaths of Eric Garner in New York City, Michael Brown in Ferguson and Tamir Rice in Cleveland — all at the hands of police officers — may have prompted the charges to be refiled.
But Reed said the altercation between Tyus and West-Morson, who are both black, is not comparable to the other cases.
“This is no chokehold, this is no gunning down of a civilian who’s innocent,” he said. “(West-Morson) was high on drugs and alcohol and he initiated a vicious and violent attack on Robert Tyus.”