7 California officers charged in death of man in custody
LOS ANGELES (AP) — 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.”
Bronstein, 38, was taken into custody following a traffic stop on March 31, 2020, and died at a CHP station in Altadena, north of downtown Los Angeles. His death came less than two months before George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis as he, too, repeatedly told officers, “I can’t breathe.”
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 an ongoing federal lawsuit that Bronstein’s family filed against the officers, alleging excessive force and a violation of civil rights.
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 California Association of Highway Patrolmen, the union that represents rank-and-file CHP officers, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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, and up to four years in prison.
The registered nurse was charged with involuntary manslaughter.
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.