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A California father's harrowing final moments have emerged in harrowing police footage showing him scream 'I can't breathe' while dying as he was held face-down on the ground so cops could extract a blood sample.
Edward Bronstein, 38, died on March 31, 2020, less than two months before George Floyd was killed by police in Minnesota, after an altercation during his arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence.
He was pulled over for a DUI, but taken to a police station after refusing to give a blood sample, which his family says was due to a fear of needles. Bronstein began wailing with fear after being pinned to the ground face-down shortly afterwards, and died shortly afterwards, with efforts to revive him proving unsuccessful.
The California Highway Patrol had fought to keep the tape from going public after the man's family sued over excessive use of force and civil rights violations, but a federal court judge ordered it released on Tuesday.
Bronstein protests giving blood, because, his family says, he was afraid of needles
Edward Bronstein, 38, died on March 31, 2020, less than two months before George Floyd was killed by police in Minnesota after repeatedly telling officers 'I can't breathe'
An 18-minute video of the arrest, taken by a California Highway Patrol sergeant in Pasadena, shows a handcuffed Bronstein, a father to two daughters, arguing with police as the lead him to a mat on the floor of the Altadena station garage and forcing him to his knees to take a blood sample he'd refused to give.
He initially argues, but begins screaming with fear after being flung to the ground face down.
'I'll do it willingly,' Bronstein can be heard saying as two officers hover over him and a man can be heard warning him not to resist taking a court ordered blood sample to determine his intoxication level.
'You can just provide it and still say you don't consent,' the officer tells him as he continues to protest his treatment. 'You're the one bringing the fight, not us.'
'I'm not fighting at all,' Bronstein says as an officer keeps his hand on his shoulder.
'Then have a seat and provide you arm. This is your last opportunity,' the patrolman said. 'Otherwise you're going to go face down on the map and we're going to keep on going.'
Bronstein's family said that he had a fear of needles.
Officers swarm Bronstein and pull his legs out from under him, causing him to squirm on the ground.
Five officers can be seen kneeling on him as he screams 'I'll do it willingly, I'll do it willingly.'
'Too late,' the officer says. 'We're not even poking you yet. You need to relax.'
Then Bronstein says, 'I can't breathe, I can't breathe.'
Edward Bronstein, shown here with his daughter, Isabella, died in police custody after repeatedly telling cops 'I can't breathe' as they knelt on his back trying to get a blood sample
Eventually, he stops moving and officers draw blood from his limp body.
A second video, more than 12 minutes long, shows the officers' and paramedics' unsuccessful attempts to revive Bronstein.
They can be seen slapping him in the head and calling his name.
They turn him over and start giving him CPR and oxygen, but did not recover.
One officer tells the paramedics that Bronstein had been complaining of 'shortness of breath.'
'When we rolled him back over, he was turning blue,' he said.
George Floyd, 46, died in May 2020 in Minneapolis after Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck during an arrest
Soon after, someone reminds the group: 'Everybody's on camera.'
The LA County coroner's office ruled Bronstein's cause of death as 'acute methamphetamine intoxication during restraint by law enforcement.' A copy of the autopsy report was not immediately available.
The family is calling for the officers to be criminally charged by the Los Angeles County district attorney.
The LA County District Attorney's Office said 'the matter remains under review.'
'When the nation was in an uproar over the George Floyd tragedy, we had no idea this had also happened to Mr. Bronstein,' said Luis Carrillo, an attorney for Bronstein's family.
'In my view the officers demonstrated a callous disregard for the value of human life and their actions should be investigated as potentially being criminal conduct,' Bowling Green State University criminal justice professor Philip Stinson told the Associated Press.
The state attorney general's office is representing the highway patrol and the officers in the federal lawsuit and referred media inquiries to CHP.
Officer Shanelle Gonzalez, a spokesperson for CHP, said the agency is declining to comment on the case because of the pending litigation.
A 2021 law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom makes it illegal for police to restrain suspects face-down because the maneuver has lead to multiple unintended deaths. Inspired by George Floyd's death it, was passed after Bronstein died.
Eric Garner, 43, died July 2014 in State Island, NY after officers used a banned chokehold on his neck.
Before Floyd, Eric Garner died in 2014 during an arrest in which he also complained of not being able to breathe. It was found that the officers used a banned chokehold to subdue him. His death, in part, launched the Black Lives Matter movement.
Stinson said the dangers are well known, but in this case the officers had a mat prepared, making it seem 'like this was a routine occurrence for the officers, that they would take someone to the mat face down to gain compliance in order to get what they want.'
Moreover, their comments on camera seemed to indicate that they were of a mind 'to teach somebody a lesson: 'Well, if you're not going to comply with what we want you to do, we're going to do this the hard way and it's going to be painful for you,' said Stinson, who reviewed the video at the request of The Associated Press.
Finally, Stinson said, 'It seemed that they were treating the incident as if the man was pretending to be unconscious. It did not seem to register with the officers that there was a medical emergency for many, many minutes.'
Family members say 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. In the video, an officer tells Bronstein they have a court order — an assertion that Carrillo doubts was true.
The officers acted in a way that the public will no longer tolerate, said Eugene O'Donnell, a professor of police studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
'This is just an utterly explosive potential situation,' said O'Donnell, who also reviewed the video at the AP's request. 'If they're not compliant, no longer can the police be having these wrestling matches with people because the consequences are deemed to far out-risk any benefit.'
The lawsuit names nine officers and one sergeant.
The officers are Carlos Villanueva, Christopher Sanchez-Romero, Darren Parsons, Diego Romero, Dusty Osmanson, Eric Voss, Justin Silva, Dionisio Fiorella and Marciel Terry. Also named is Sergeant Michael Little.
An attorney for the medical professional said the firm that employs him was 'heartbroken' to learn of the death.
Attorney John C. Kelly said in a statement that the company does not participate in the arrest or physical handling of anyone, and just takes blood samples for testing. They are not there to provide medical clearance or evaluation, and most do not have that training.
That was true in this case, he wrote, and when Bronstein became unresponsive, the company's employee 'provided what help he could under the circumstances.'
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