7 CA Highway Patrol Officers, Nurse Charged in Death of Man After Traffic Stop

DA Gascón says suspected drunk driver ”repeatedly told officers he could not breathe,” while pinned to the ground in 2020

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón has charged seven California Highway Patrol officers and a registered nurse with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the 2020 death of a Burbank father of five who was detained following a traffic stop on suspicions of driving while impaired.

The charges come nearly three years to the day after Edward Bronstein, 38, was pulled over while driving on Route 5 in Burbank for swerving over marked lanes. Apparently appearing intoxicated, he agreed to take a Breathalyzer, as an attorney for Bronstein’s family, Michael Carrillo, tells LAMag. Bronstein blew under the legal limit, which prompted the CHP officer to obtain a court order to draw blood to test for narcotics. This was when what may have been a routine stop and arrest began to spiral out of control.

Six officers pinned Bronstein to the ground in the garage of the Altadena CHP station as he screamed, “I can’t breathe!” repeatedly. Eventually, he went eerily silent, according to a video released by a judge as part of a civil suit filed by Carrillo. When they flipped his body over, “he was lifeless,” Carrillo says.

In the video, officers appear to shake Bronstein for two minutes after he went silent, urging him to “wake up.” He never did.

Edward Bronstein with daughter

Michael Carrillo Law Firm

Gascón wrote in a press release that Bronstein was “kept facedown for approximately six more minutes,” and that officers didn’t attempt CPR until “approximately 10 minutes after he became unresponsive.

The Los Angeles County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Bronstein’s cause of death as “acute methamphetamine intoxication during restraint by law enforcement;” Carrillo said an independent autopsy showed asphyxia.

“It’s taken forever to get accountability from the DA’s office, and. I don’t know why,” Carrillo said, adding: “This is a man with knees on his neck just weeks before George Floyd.

“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,” Gascón said. “I promise Mr. Bronstein’s family and our community that I will continue to advocate for stronger accountability in use-of-force cases and an independent review of deaths that occur while in law enforcement custody.”

The seven officers were each charged with one count of involuntary manslaughter and one count of assault by an officer: Dionisio Fiorella; Michael Little, Dustin Osmanson; Darren Parsons; Diego Romero; Justin Silva; and Marciel Terry.

Registered nurse Arbi Baghalian, who was at the scene to draw blood for the drug test, was also charged with involuntary manslaughter. John Kelly, an attorney for Baghalian’s employer, Vital Medical, expressed outrage at this charge in a statement. 

“I believe it is outrageous and irresponsible for the DA to charge a Registered Nurse (who was present to take a legal blood draw) with involuntary manslaughter,” Kelly said, per the Associated Press. “I am not aware of anyone who has opined that the nurse’s conduct in any way caused or contributed to this unfortunate death.”

An arraignment will be scheduled for a later date, prosecutors said. 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.

The officers face up to four years in prison if found guilty.

On the three-year anniversary of his death this Friday, Bronstein’s family plans to hold a candlelight vigil outside the CHP station where he died, Carrillo said.

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