California to Pay $24M in Settlement Over Burbank Man Who Died in CHP Custody

Edward Bronstein, 38, died while in CHP custody after a traffic stop on the 5 Freeway.

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California will pay $24 million in a civil rights settlement with the family of a Burbank man who died in California Highway Patrol custody after he repeatedly screamed 'I can't breathe' as he was being restrained.

Edward Bronstein, of Burbank, died after he was taken into custody during a March 2020 traffic stop. His death drew protests and calls for charges outside District Attorney George Gascón's office in March 2022 after video of the arrest was made public as part of a wrongful death lawsuit by Bronstein's family.

Gascón's office announced in March that a CHP Highway Patrol sergeant, six officers and a registered nurse face criminal charges in the death of a 38-year-old Bronstein.

His family spoke Wednesday morning at a news conference with attorneys who announced the settlement. They called it the largest civil rights settlement of its kind by the state of California and the second-largest nationally since Minneapolis paid $27 million in the death of George Floyd.

Bronstein was detained on suspicion of DUI on the 5 Freeway in Burbank. He was taken to the Altadena CHP Station and declined to have his blood drawn by the on- call registered nurse. Family members said they believe Bronstein was initially reluctant to comply because he is frightened of needles.

The 18-minute video showed Bronstein handcuffed and facedown on a mat at a highway patrol station north of downtown Los Angeles. Eventually, he can be heard saying, "I'll do it willingly. I'll do it willingly. I promise."

Bronstein, pinned facedown, can be heard repeatedly saying, "I can't breathe," during the nearly 18-minute video as he was held facedown by officers on a mat.

An officer responded, “Just relax and stop resisting.”

Bronstein's voice fell silent as the nurse drew blood. CPR was conducted more than 10 minutes after his last screams, but he never regained consciousness and was later pronounced dead.

The coroner's office concluded that Bronstein died of "acute methamphetamine intoxication during restraint by law enforcement,'' according to the CHP.

Protesters rallied today outside the office of LA County DA George Gascon, two years after Edward Bronstein died while in CHP custody. Beverly White reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on March 24, 2022. 

His death came two months before the death of Floyd, who died during a May 2020 arrest by Minneapolis police. Floyd's death and video of arrest sparked nationwide protests. Floyd, too, repeatedly told officers, 'I can't breathe.'

The sergeant and officers could face up to four years and eight months in state prison if convicted as charged. The registered nurse has also been charged with one count of involuntary manslaughter and could face a maximum of four years in prison, according to Gascón.

The CHP issued a statement about the death of Bronstein.

"On behalf of the entire California Highway Patrol, I extend my deepest condolences to the family of Mr. Edward Bronstein. Our agency's top priority is protecting the safety and well-being of all Californians, and I am saddened that Mr. Bronstein died while in our custody and care," said CHP Commissioner Sean Duryee. "Any death in custody is a tragedy that we take with utmost seriousness. I recognize this case will now move through the court system, and I respect the judicial process.''

The sergeant and officers have been placed on administrative leave, according to the CHP.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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