7 CHP officers charged in death of L.A. motorist caught on video

VIDEO | 02:48
Video shows death of man in CHP custody

Attorneys for Edward Bronstein’s family obtained a video showing Bronstein’s last moments as California Highway Patrol officers hold him and forcibly draw his blood as he repeatedly tells them, “I can’t breathe.”


Seven California Highway Patrol officers and a nurse were charged with manslaughter Wednesday in connection with the death of a man who screamed, “I can’t breathe!” as they tried to draw blood from him, prosecutors said.

Edward Bronstein was suspected of driving while intoxicated in 2020 when he was apprehended and later died in CHP custody at the agency’s Altadena station.

The six officers and a sergeant who filmed the deadly encounter with Bronstein were charged with involuntary manslaughter and assault under color of authority, according to Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón. An attending nurse at the scene was also charged with involuntary manslaughter, Gascón said.


“These officers had a legal duty to Mr. Bronstein,” Gascón said as he announced the charges. “He was in their custody … and their failure was criminally negligent.”

The officers charged were Sgt. Michael Little, Dionisio Fiorella, Dusty Osmanson, Darren Parsons, Diego Romero, Justin Silva and Marciel Terry. The nurse was identified as Arbi Baghalian.

It was not immediately clear if any of them had defense attorneys or when arraignments will take place. The officers have not been arrested and are expected to self-surrender, according to Tiffiny Blacknell, director of communications for the district attorney’s office.

Gascón refused to take questions from reporters and left the room after playing video of the fatal incident.

The charges come nearly three years after the death of Bronstein, 38, a Burbank resident. A video released as part of a civil lawsuit last year shows Bronstein’s desperate last moments, screaming “I can’t breathe” as the officers wrestle with him and try to forcibly draw his blood after a vehicle stop and arrest in March 2020.

Bronstein was pulled over by Osmanson on the 5 Freeway on suspicion of driving under the influence and taken to the Altadena station. Once there, officers tried to draw his blood to measure his alcohol level, but he refused.


In a 16-minute video recorded by Little, which Gascón played at the Wednesday news conference, Bronstein can be seen kneeling on the ground while a gloved officer presses his hands onto his shoulders and an officer who is off-camera instructs Bronstein to comply with a court-ordered blood draw.

Family photo showing Edward Bronstein with his daughter, Isabella Bronstein.
Family photo showing Edward Bronstein with his daughter, Isabella Bronstein.

(Bronstein family photo)

After a lengthy back-and-forth, Bronstein yells that he will comply with the officer’s demands. But additional officers can then be seen surrounding him and holding him down with their body weight as he repeatedly shouts in distress.

“I promise, I promise!” Bronstein can be heard pleading, but an officer responded that it was “too late” while continuing to press down on Bronstein. After nearly a minute of being pinned, Bronstein says, “I can’t breathe!” as the blood draw takes place.

Roughly one minute later, Bronstein goes slack and stops responding to the officers, according to the video. Officers can be seen trying to revive him. One calls his name and slaps the side of his head while he remains face-down on the ground. But several minutes elapse before officers attempt to deliver oxygen or CPR.

Someone can be seen repeatedly checking Bronstein’s neck and wrists for a pulse, but no officer appears to react with urgency. One person can be seen fidgeting with the blood vials drawn from Bronstein while his body lies prone.

“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,” CHP Commissioner Sean Duryee said in a statement. “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.”

All seven officers are on administrative leave, according to an agency spokesperson.

Ed Obayashi, a Northern California Sheriff’s deputy and use-of-force expert, said he is not surprised by the charges against the officers. “This is low-level misdemeanor. Why would officers consider using such force?” he asked.


“Their use of force here violated basic training and the law. The DUI suspect was not resisting, he was trying to breathe,” he said. “If you use this kind of weight on a body, a death or serious injury is predictable. This is de facto deadly force.”

According to sources familiar with the investigation but not authorized to discuss it, prosecutors believe the nurse acted with criminal negligence by failing to provide adequate medical care to Bronstein.

A Los Angeles County coroner’s office report could not conclusively determine Bronstein’s cause of death but attributed it to “acute methamphetamine, intoxication during restraint by law enforcement.”

Luis Carrillo, the Bronstein family’s attorney, said there was only a “trace” amount of methamphetamine in the victim’s system and argued that the officers’ actions were the primary cause of death. Bronstein was driving with blood-alcohol content of 0.07% at the time of the incident, below the legal limit, according to Carrillo.

Carrillo previously told The Times the video was not part of the usual CHP protocol and was shot by a sergeant. Although CHP cars have dash cams, officers do not wear body cameras.

“I suspect they shot this for training purposes and then realized later they had to reveal its existence,” he said.


Edward Tapia, the victim’s father, said his son did not have any substance abuse issues and was a reformed gang member who wanted to work as an airplane mechanic. He was working in his father’s auto body shop at the time of his death. Both Tapia and Carrillo said that while they believed Gascón should have filed second-degree murder charges, they were happy to see someone held accountable.

“I’m glad it came to this point so [the officers] can’t hurt nobody else,” Tapia said. “I miss my son so much but … I don’t know what else to say. I think when you see the video you’ll understand.”