7 CHP Officers Charged In Death Of Man Captured On Video

March 30, 2023 0 By JohnValbyNation

LOS ANGELES, CA — Prosecutors charged seven California Highway Patrol officers and a nurse with involuntary manslaughter on Wednesday in connection with the 2020 death of a man who screamed “I can’t breathe” while multiple officers restrained him as they tried to take a blood sample.

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón announced the charges in the death of Edward Bronstein, which the LA County coroner said was caused by “acute methamphetamine intoxication during restraint by law enforcement.”

“The officers had a legal duty to Mr. Bronstein,” Gascón said during a news conference. “He was in their custody. We believe that they failed their duty and their failure was criminally negligent, causing his death.”

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The fatal incident occurred March 31, 2020, almost two months before George Floyd was killed, turning the phrase, “I can’t breathe” into a national rallying cry against excessive force by police. It was three years before the CHP officers who held down Bronstein, 38, were charged.

A lawsuit filed on behalf of Bronstein’s parents and his four children alleges excessive force, negligence, assault and battery, conspiracy, wrongful death, violations of Bronstein’s civil rights and failure to provide medical care.

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Luis Carrillo, an attorney representing Bronstein’s father, said in an email that his client “is glad that the CHP officers were charged with crimes because the CHP officers took a human life and left a family in grief and sadness.”

A nearly 18-minute video showing the officers’ treatment of Bronstein was released last year following a judge’s order in the ongoing federal lawsuit.

Family members have said Bronstein was terrified of needles and believe that’s why he was reluctant to comply with the CHP initially as they tried to take a blood sample.

The video, filmed by the sergeant, begins with Bronstein handcuffed and kneeling while refusing to submit to a blood test after being arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence on the Golden State (5) Freeway. An off-camera officer warns him that he has one more chance to submit voluntarily before officers hold him down to draw his blood.

“This is wrong,” Bronstein mumbles in the video.

“You’re bringing the fight to this, not us,” an officer tells him.

“Just give me a minute, ok? Please,” Bronstein asks.

As several officers push him to the ground, Bronstein begins screaming. “Please no! I’ll do it willingly. I’ll do it willingly! I’ll do it willingly! I promise.”

“It’s too late,” one officer replies.

Five officers hold him down to the ground, and at least two officers in the video appear to use a knee to pin him down.

That’s when Bronstein starts screaming, “I can’t breathe!” He’s loud at first, but then his voice grows fainter each time he yells it.

“Stop yelling,” one of the officers responds.

He continues screaming as six officers hold him face-down.

“You’re pushing on my throat,” Bronstein says.

It’s the last distinguishable phrase he says before going quiet and appearing to lose consciousness. The officers continue to hold him down for several more minutes as the blood draw is completed. They check for his pulse, shake him, and tap his face repeatedly to try to wake him, but it’s more than 11 minutes before CPR is performed, the video shows. Bronstein never regained consciousness and died in CHP custody.

In a statement, CHP Commissioner Sean Duryee extended condolences to the family and said the agency’s mission is to prioritize all Californians’ safety.

“I am saddened that Mr. Bronstein died while in our custody and care. Any death in custody is a tragedy that we take with upmost seriousness,” Duryee said. “I recognize this case will now move through the court system, and I respect the judicial process.”

The seven CHP agents, who were put on administrative leave Wednesday, were identified as Sgt. Michael Little and Officers Dionisio Fiorella, Dustin Osmanson, Darren Parsons, Diego Romero, Justin Silva and Marciel Terry.

They face one count each of involuntary manslaughter and one felony count of assault under the color of authority. If convicted, they could get up to four years in prison.

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It was not immediately clear whether they had lawyers who could speak on their behalf, and the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, the union that represents rank-and-file CHP officers, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The registered nurse, Arbi Baghalian, was also charged with involuntary manslaughter.

“I believe it is outrageous and irresponsible for the DA to charge a Registered Nurse (who was present to take a legal blood draw) with involuntary manslaughter,” said John Kelly, an attorney for Baghalian’s employer, Vital Medical, in a statement. “I am not aware of anyone who has opined that the nurse’s conduct in any way caused or contributed to this unfortunate death.”

An arraignment has not yet been scheduled.

Bronstein’s death prompted the CHP to change its policies to prevent officers “from using techniques or transport methods that involve a substantial risk of positional asphyxia,” the agency said. Additional training was also ordered for uniformed officers.

In September 2021, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law barring police from using certain face-down holds that have led to multiple unintended deaths. The bill was aimed at expanding on the state’s ban on chokeholds in the wake of Floyd’s murder.


The Associated Press and Patch Staffer Paige Austin contributed to this report.

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