Mar 17, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Video shows man screaming "I can't breathe" before custody death

A man holds his fist in the air in front of a placard that reads 'I can't breathe' at Town Hall in solidarity with protests in the United States on June 06, 2020 in Sydney, Australia.
Photo: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

California authorities have released a video of a 38-year-old man who died after screaming "I can't breathe" while being restrained by multiple police officers who were trying to take a blood sample.

The big picture: Edward Bronstein died on March 31, 2020, after a California Highway Patrol (CHP) traffic stop less than two months before George Floyd told Minneapolis police officers that he couldn't breathe before they killed him, AP notes.

  • His cause of death was ruled by the Los Angeles County coroner's office to be "acute methamphetamine intoxication during restraint by law enforcement," the Los Angeles Times reports.

Driving the news: The police video of Bronstein in the custody of the CHP at an Altadena police station was released on Tuesday following a judge's order.

  • The family of the Southern California man alleges in a wrongful-death lawsuit against the officers that they used excessive force and violated Bronstein's civil rights.
  • They're also calling for the L.A. County district attorney's office to criminally charge the officers involved in the traffic stop.
  • "Lawyers representing the CHP and the officers in court filings have denied any unconstitutional or other types of wrong conduct, and said they were performing their official duties impartially and fairly," NBC reports.

Details: The police video shows officers forcing Bronstein face-down onto a mat as he shouts, "I’ll do it willingly, I promise!" But an officer tells him it's too late and there's a court order for a blood draw before several restrain him.

  • He tells them several times that he can't breathe as officers hold him down for the blood draw. They ask him if he's OK as he falls silent, and continue to draw blood.
  • Some two minutes later, officers begin shaking an unresponsive Bronstein, telling him to "wake up" and check for his pulse. They begin CPR over 11 minutes after his last screams.
  • Bronstein's family believes he initially didn't comply with a CHP request for a blood sample because he was scared of needles, per AP.

What they're saying: Luis Carrillo, an attorney for Bronstein's family, said when "the nation was in an uproar over the George Floyd tragedy, we had no idea this had also happened to Mr. Bronstein," according to AP.

  • The L.A. County district attorney’s office responded to media requests for comment by saying, "the matter remains under review."
  • The CHP has declined to comment while litigation is pending.
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