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California Settles For $24M With Family Of Man Who Died In Custody Screaming ‘I Can’t Breathe’

Los Angeles, CA – The state of California has agreed to pay $24 million to the family of a man who died while being arrested by California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers after he screamed “I can’t breathe” multiple times while he was being held down.

The pre-trial civil rights settlement is the largest in California’s history, and the second-largest in U.S. history, NBC News reported.

It comes in second behind the city of Minneapolis’ $27 million settlement with George Floyd’s family that was announced in the middle of former Minneapolis Police Department Officer Derek Chauvin’s trial.

Chauvin was ultimately convicted of Floyd’s murder and also pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges.

Floyd died in the custody of the Minneapolis police two months after 38-year-old Edward Bronstein died while being arrested by CHP, NBC News reported.

Seven CHP officers and a nurse were charged with involuntary manslaughter in March in connection with the death of Bronstein.

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 sued for wrongful death, civil rights violations, assault and battery, and failure to render adequate medical care, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The $24 million settlement announced on May 10 comes in the wake of protests following the death of a homeless man who was put in a chokehold by another passenger after behaving erratically on the New York Subway.

Written by
Sandy Malone

Managing Editor - Twitter/@SandyMalone_ - Prior to joining The Police Tribune, Sandy wrote the Politics.Net column for the Wall Street Journal and was managing editor of Campaigns & Elections magazine. More recently, she was an internationally-syndicated columnist for Conde Nast (BRIDES), The Huffington Post, and Monsters and Critics. Sandy is married to a retired police captain and former SWAT commander.

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Written by Sandy Malone


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