Los Angeles, CA – Seven California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers and a nurse have been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of a suspect they continued to hold down after he screamed “I can’t breathe.”
The Los Angeles County coroner determined that the suspect – 38-year-old Edward Bronstein – died of “acute methamphetamine intoxication during restraint by law enforcement,” the Associated Press reported.
“The officers had a legal duty to Mr. Bronstein,” Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón told reporters at a press conference announcing the charges on March 29.
“He was in their custody. We believe that they failed their duty and their failure was criminally negligent, causing his death,” Gascón said.
Authorities released a nearly 18-minute video last year of Bronstein’s struggle with law enforcement officers as they attempted to have his blood drawn, the Associated Press reported.
The prosecutors said the six CHP officers and one CHP sergeant charged in Bronstein’s death are each facing one count of involuntary manslaughter and one felony count of assault under the color of authority.
If convicted, each officer is facing up to four years behind bars, according to the Associated Press.
The registered nurse who was featured attempting to take Bronstein’s blood sample in the video has been charged with involuntary manslaughter.
A date for their arraignments has not yet been set, the Associated Press reported.
The incident occurred on March 31, 2020 after CHP officers stopped Bronstein for driving erratically on Interstate 5, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Officers arrested Bronstein, brought him into the CHP station in Altadena, and got a court order to draw his blood for the DUI investigation, KCAL reported.
But when officers tried to draw the blood, Bronstein resisted.
Bronstein’s family said he had a fear of needles, KCAL reported.
The video recorded by a CHP sergeant began with Bronstein kneeling on a mat in the parking garage of the Altadena station with an officer standing behind him, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“You are bringing the fight to this, not us,” one of the officers said.
“I am not bringing the fight at all,” Bronstein replied.
“This is your last opportunity,” an officer off-camera told the man. “Otherwise, you’re going face-down on the mat, and we going to keep on going.”
Bronstein continued to refuse to allow his blood to be drawn, so officers surrounded him and flipped him down onto his belly on the mat, the video showed.
Just as he was taken down in the video, Bronstein can be heard yelling “I’ll do it willingly! I’ll do it willingly!”
Officers continued to hold Bronstein down as he struggled, the video showed.
He started yelling “I can’t breathe!” about minute into the struggle, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“He says, ‘I can’t breathe.’ Twelve times is what I counted,” attorney Michael Carrillo told reporters at a press conference after Bronstein’s family filed a federal lawsuit in March of 2022 that claimed officers used excessive force that caused his death, according to KCAL.
The video showed that when Bronstein stopped struggling, the officers left him face-down while a nurse drew his blood.
He was face-down and appeared unresponsive in the video for six minutes before the officers tried to revive him.
The video showed one of the officers slapped Bronstein’s head as he remained face-down but got no reaction.
So, the officers rolled him over and sat him up.
The autopsy showed the Bronstein had marijuana, alcohol, and methamphetamine in his system when he died, KCAL reported.
“Not one officer took the action to pull the others off of him, pull him to the side, do something to give him air,” Carrillo told the Los Angeles Times. “When they finally flip him over, he’s lifeless.”
The attorney said Bronstein’s family didn’t learn there was a video of their loved one’s death until after they filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the state, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The state fought to keep the video sealed for two years but a federal trial judge ruled the family had a right to have and disclose the video.
The family has sued for wrongful death, civil rights violations, assault and battery, and failure to render adequate medical care, the Los Angeles Times reported.