LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A California Highway Patrol sergeant and six CHP officers have been charged with involuntary manslaughter and assault under the color of authority in the death of a Burbank man who was restrained after refusing to have his blood drawn following a traffic stop on the Golden State (5) Freeway, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón announced Wednesday.
The charges stem from the March 2020 death of 38-year-old Edward Bronstein, who can be heard on video repeatedly screaming, "I can't breathe!" while in a nearby CHP parking lot.
"These officers had a legal duty to Mr. Bronstein. He was in their custody. We believe that they failed their duty and their failure was criminally negligent, causing his death," Gascón said at a news conference in downtown Los Angeles announcing the charges.
A registered nurse, Arbi Baghalian, 42, was also charged with one count of involuntary manslaughter and could face a maximum of four years in prison, according to Gascón.
An arraignment date has not yet been set for Sgt. Michael Little, 57; Dionisio Fiorella, 39; Dustin Osmanson, 41; Darren Parsons, 48; Diego Romero, 35; Justin Silva, 30; and Marciel Terry, 32. They could each face up to four years and eight months in state prison if convicted as charged, according to the county's top prosecutor.
The district attorney noted that Bronstein initially declined to have his blood drawn following the freeway stop in Burbank on suspicion of driving under the influence and that an 18-minute video recorded by a CHP sergeant shows an officer warning him that if he didn't comply, he would be going "face down on the mat and we're going to keep going."
"The video shows several officers restraining Mr. Bronstein who is handcuffed and face down on the mat ...," Gascón said. "What ensued is difficult to watch and hear as Mr. Bronstein pleads for his life. A group of officers holds him down and presses their knees on his legs and neck as he repeatedly promises them that he will comply. One officer responds, `It's too late.' Mr. Bronstein screams, `I can't breathe!' over and over and pleads for help while officers continue to restrain him and even demanding that he stop yelling."
Bronstein was "unresponsive" and officers held him down as a medical professional draws a vial of blood from him, and a second vial of blood was collected as he was "laying so lifelessly that the officers no longer need to hold him down because he's dying as they're watching," the district attorney said.
"When they turn him over six minutes after his last scream, he is completely lifeless," Gascón said. "More than 13 minutes after Mr. Bronstein last screamed, they began CPR but are unsuccessful."