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Family of California man who yelled ‘I can’t breathe’ before dying in police custody in 2020 reaches $24 million settlement

<i>Jae C. Hong/AP</i><br/>Edward Tapia
Jae C. Hong/AP
Edward Tapia

By Taylor Romine, CNN

The family of Edward Bronstein, who died while in custody of law enforcement in 2020, reached a $24 million settlement in a lawsuit against the state of California, the California Highway Patrol and other parties, attorneys announced in a news conference Wednesday.

Bronstein, 38, was initially pulled over in Los Angeles County under suspicion of driving under the influence on March 31, 2020. Officers obtained a warrant to get a blood sample from Bronstein, who initially resisted but then agreed as he was forcibly held on the ground by several officers while a medical professional was retrieving a blood sample, according to video taken on the scene by CHP.

Bronstein was repeatedly heard on video footage saying a combination of “I can’t breathe” and “let me breathe” at least 12 times within a 30-second span while on the ground and became unresponsive minutes later. He died shortly after the encounter.

The Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s office later determined Bronstein died from “acute methamphetamine intoxication during restraint by law enforcement.” It listed the manner of death as “undetermined.”

Bronstein’s family filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit in December 2020 against the state of California, CHP, 10 CHP officers, a nurse who was on scene and the medical company the nurse worked for.

Seven of the 10 officers and the nurse involved were criminally charged in Bronstein’s death in March of this year.

CNN has reached out to all parties for comment on the settlement and for updates on the criminal case.

“We finally have accountability,” attorney Annee Della Donna said. “The 24 million is so important is because it sends a message to every police officer in California that when they put their badge on, they take an oath to protect life. And when you hear someone say ‘I can’t breathe’ get your knee off their neck.”

CHP continues “to respect the judicial process” and are unable to provide further comment on Bronstein’s death, citing ongoing criminal cases, they said in a statement to CNN Wednesday.

Edward Tapia, Bronstein’s father, said he had “no words” about the officers’ actions.

“They did a lot of things that shouldn’t have been done,” he told reporters at the news conference. “He could’ve been here still. But he’s not because of what they did.”

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