Los Angeles, Mar 31 (IANS): Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon charged seven California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers with involuntary manslaughter in the 2020 death of 38-year-old Edward Bronstein, who was killed when the defenders forcibly restrained him in a CHP station.
According to a statement released by Gascon's office, the incident occurred on March 31, 2020, when Bronstein was driving on Interstate 5 in Burbank, a neighbouring city of Los Angeles, and was pulled over by two alleged officers for suspected driving under the influence, Xinhua news agency reported.
The officers then took Bronstein to a nearby CHP parking lot and obtained a warrant to draw his blood. Bronstein initially refused the blood draw before agreed to comply as officers pushed him to the ground. He was forced to be pinned down on for approximately six more minutes and became unresponsive as the blood draw continued.
Last March, a judge hearing Bronstein family's wrongful death lawsuit ordered the release of a video of what happened at the station, in which five officers forced the handcuffed Bronstein to the ground, and the victim screamed "I can't breathe" at least eight times and called for help but the officers refused to stop.
In the video posed online, when Bronstein when silent, a policeman on the scene checked his pulse and injected him with something. Those officers spent several minutes watching Bronstein, calling out to him and gently slapping his face.
Several minutes later, one officer was heard in the video saying, "Is he breathing? If he's got a pulse and he's not breathing, he still needs rescue, bro. Get some air in him." Then an officer began using a small bellows-type device to force air into Bronstein's mouth and other officers prepared a defibrillator.
"Approximately 10 minutes after he became unresponsive, the officers attempted CPR, but Bronstein never regained consciousness and was later pronounced dead," the statement from Gascon's office read.
"These officers had a legal duty to Mr. Bronstein," Gascon told a news conference Wednesday. "He was in their custody. We believe that they failed their duty, and their failure was criminally negligent, causing his death."
He also retweeted local media's report on this case Thursday saying, "For the system to work, people must be able to trust law enforcement. Police accountability is critical to building that trust, and it is necessary for public safety."
In a statement, CHP Commissioner Sean Duryee expressed his condolences to Bronstein and said all seven involved officers had been placed on administrative leave per agency policy, and that CHP had taken corrective measures in response to the incident.
"CHP leadership updated agency policies to prevent officers from using techniques or transport methods that involve a substantial risk of positional asphyxia," it said in a statement.
Bronstein's death following a traffic stop happened less than two months before George Floyd told Minneapolis police officers that he couldn't breathe before they killed him on May 25, 2020.
After Floyd's murder, protests against police brutality and racial inequality, especially toward black people, quickly spread across the United States and globally. His dying words, "I can't breathe," became a rallying slogan. According to a 2020 report by The New York Times, the phrase had been used by over 70 people who died in police custody.