$24 million settlement announced after in-custody death of Edward Bronstein

It's the biggest civil rights settlement in the state's history, attorneys say.

ByBrittany Gaddy ABCNews logo
Thursday, May 11, 2023

Attorneys for the family of Edward Bronstein, who died in police custody in 2020, announced they reached a $24 million settlement with the state of California during a press conference Wednesday.

"Today is huge because the amount of the settlement matters," said Annee Della Donna, an attorney for Bronstein's family. "It is a huge message to every officer out there: Take your knees off our necks."

Family attorney Eric Dubin said this is the biggest civil rights settlement in California's history. Nationwide, it is the second largest settlement behind the $27 million George Floyd's family was approved for.

There was no admission of wrongdoing by California as part of the settlement, according to Dubin.

On March 31, 2020, Bronstein, 38, was taken into custody after the California Highway Patrol pulled him over while driving on a Burbank freeway for suspicion of driving under the influence, prosecutors said.

He was brought to CHP's Altadena Station, where officers attempted to take a blood sample. Six officers are accused of forcing Bronstein to the ground handcuffed and pinning him down by pressing their knees on his legs and neck while his blood was drawn, according to prosecutors. Bronstein repeatedly told officers he could not breathe before becoming unresponsive as the blood draw continued, video footage of the incident shows.

According to prosecutors, officers attempted CPR more than 13 minutes after Bronstein became unresponsive. He was later pronounced dead.

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

In March, seven California Highway Patrol officers and a nurse were charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection to his death.

Their arraignment is set for next week and they have not yet entered a plea, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

"What they did was punitive in nature. What they did was aggressive," Della Donna said about the officers' alleged actions. "What they did was a killing. There's no excuse. And today, today marks a new beginning and civil rights in California."

The California Association of Highway Patrolmen, the union that represents CHP officers, told ABC News in a statement "While Edward Bronstein's death was regrettable, the California Highway Patrolmen acted within departmental policies while assisting a medical professional to obtain a routine and legally authorized blood draw from a DUI suspect."

"No evidence suggests Mr. Bronstein suffered from asphyxia during his restraint by law enforcement," the statement read.

Steve Cooley, an attorney representing the nurse charged with involuntary manslaughter regarding the incident, told ABC News "our client is 100% innocent, and we can prove it," claiming that he was wrongfully charged.

At the press conference, Edward Tapia, Bronstein's father, said "They did a lot of things that shouldn't have been done and he could have been here still, but he's not because of what they did."

CHP told ABC News in a statement "The California Highway Patrol continues to respect the judicial process, and we are unable to provide further comment due to the ongoing criminal proceedings. The officers associated with this incident were placed on administrative time off when the Department was notified that they were being indicated on criminal charges."

Kimberly Sullivan, an attorney representing the officers, told ABC News she did not have a statement.

ABC News' Meredith Deliso contributed to this report.