Daughter speaks out on dad’s death in police custody after shouting ‘I can’t breathe’

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(ALTADENA, Calif.) — The daughter of a man who died in California Highway Patrol custody as officers tried to take a blood sample is speaking out about the incident and calling for justice for her father.

Edward Bronstein died on March 31, 2020, after the California Highway Patrol pulled him over for a traffic stop. He was taken into custody and brought to CHP’s Altadena Station, where officers attempted to take a blood sample. According to reports, he had passed a Breathalyzer test but police wanted a blood sample because they believed he was under the influence of drugs.

Bronstein initially did not comply with a request to have his blood taken, which Bronstein’s daughter, Brianna Palomino, said she believes is because he had a fear of needles. In the video, officers can be seen holding him down as he shouts, “I can’t breathe.”

CHP officers do not wear body cameras so the video appears to have been taken by a handheld camera or cellphone.

Bronstein lost consciousness and was pronounced dead later that morning.

“I felt for him in that moment,” Palomino said. “He begged everyone, all the officers, to stop and do something. He couldn’t breathe. I wished that I was there to say something or do something to stop this. It was very difficult to watch as his daughter. It’s very heartbreaking.”

In an autopsy provided by the family’s lawyer, the LA coroner’s office ascribed the death to acute methamphetamine intoxication during restraint by law enforcement but wrote the manner of death was undetermined.

The video from his death was released Tuesday as part of the family’s lawsuit against the CHP filed in November 2020.

“I am definitely happy that it’s out there now so that people can see the truth and so that this story is out there and we’re getting lots of support from it,” Palomino said.

The family has sued the CHP for wrongful death, alleging the use of force was “excessive and objectively unreasonable under the circumstances” and saying Bronstein was “unarmed, restrained, and surrounded by uniformed peace officers.” They are seeking unspecified damages and a jury trial.

In the footage, Bronstein is initially resistant to the blood test before saying multiple times, “I’ll do it willingly, I’ll do it willingly. I promise.”

“Mr. Bronstein did say on the video before they smothered him — all those officers — that he would willingly [do a] blood draw. He said it two or three times,” Michael Carrillo, the family’s lawyer, told ABC News. “They ignored that and they still brutalized him, even though he was willing to have the blood drawn. And so the next step now is to depose these officers.”

Officers are seen in the footage continuing to hold him down while one can be heard saying, “It’s too late.”

“Before I saw the video, and I saw that there was lack of compliance, it was very difficult for me to process in my head because my dad is not one to fight,” Palomino told ABC News. “So when I did see the video, he looks scared in the beginning. He actually began to cry. That was hesitation from his fear of needles. So that was difficult to watch. He was at a vulnerable state. And the world got to see that.”

Bronstein’s death came two months before George Floyd’s killing at the hands of Minneapolis police sparked a racial awakening in America.

Bronstein, like Floyd, was heard repeating “I can’t breathe” in the video.

In the video, officers can be seen shaking Bronstein and trying to find a pulse, shouting “wake up” after he is unresponsive. A second video shows officers trying to “get some air in him,” as one officer says in the footage.

Bronstein’s death is currently under investigation and the LA County District Attorney’s Office said the conduct of the officers is “under review.”

The CHP has not commented on the case, citing the pending lawsuit.

Palomino said she hopes the officers will be held accountable.

“I would like to see the officers be prosecuted,” she said. “I don’t feel like they deserve a position in law enforcement for their carelessness and lack of training. … That’s what I would like to see.”

“You can’t let a human being die in front of your eyes caused by your own actions,” Palomino added. “He was amazing. … What I miss about him [is] just hearing his voice, feeling his hugs, you know, the comfort of a dad is something you just can’t replace.”

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