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California will pay a $24 million civil rights settlement to the family of a man who died in police custody. This is a representational image. niu niu/Unsplash.

California will pay a $24 million civil rights settlement to the family of a man who died in police custody after yelling "I can't breathe" while being detained by several policemen while trying to take a blood sample.

In connection with the 2020 death of Edward Bronstein, age 38, seven California Highway Patrol officers and a nurse were charged with involuntary manslaughter earlier this year.

It is the highest civil rights settlement of its sort by the state of California and the second largest nationwide since the city of Minneapolis paid $27 million in the George Floyd case, according to Annee Della Donna and Eric Dubin, attorneys for Bronstein's young children.

To provide information, the lawyers planned a news conference for Wednesday in Los Angeles.

The payment comes in the wake of increased scrutiny of potentially fatal restraints following Jordan Neely's death on the New York City subway last week after being put in a chokehold by a former U.S. Marine.

The demise of Bronstein is also reminiscent of that of Eric Garner, a New Yorker who was choked to death by police in 2014, and whose final words, "I can't breathe," became a rallying cry for those against racial injustice. Garner and Neely were both Black people, NBC News reported.

According to the Los Angeles County coroner, Bronstein died as a result of "acute methamphetamine intoxication during law enforcement restraint." According to the article, Bronstein's race as white.

On Mar. 31, 2020, Bronstein was detained on accusations of drunk driving following a traffic stop. He died in a highway patrol station in Altadena, just north of downtown Los Angeles, less than two months before Floyd was killed by police in Minnesota, when he, too, kept telling them, "I can't breathe."

LA County District Attorney George Gascón stated that the highway patrol officers' failure to protect Bronstein "was criminally negligent, resulting in his death" while announcing the criminal charges in March.

Following a judge's directive in the family's federal complaint alleging excessive force and a violation of civil rights, a roughly 18-minute video depicting the cops' treatment of Bronstein was made public last year.

Family members have said Bronstein was terrified of needles. They believe that's why he was reluctant to comply with the CHP initially as they tried to take a blood sample.

The video, filmed by the sergeant, shows several officers forcing a handcuffed Bronstein to a mat on the floor as he shouts, "I'll do it willingly! I'll do it willingly, I promise!"

He continuously screams as six officers hold him face-down — the lawsuit alleged they put their knees on his back — and pleads for help.

"It's too late," one officer replies. "Stop yelling!" another shouts.

"I can't breathe!" and "I can't!" Bronstein cries, and an officer responds, "Just relax and stop resisting!"

But Bronstein's falls silent. While he is unresponsive, the nurse continues to draw blood and the officers keep pinning him down.

After they realize he may not have a pulse and does not appear to be breathing, they slap his face and say, "Edward, wake up." More than 11 minutes after his last screams, they begin CPR.

Bronstein lost consciousness and was subsequently declared dead.

CHP Commissioner Sean Duryee expressed his sympathy to the family in a statement and pledged to follow the legal system. When asked about the settlement on Tuesday, his office didn't answer right away.

The policemen, who were placed on administrative leave in March, are charged with one felony crime of assault while in a position of power and one count of involuntary manslaughter.

They face a maximum sentence of four years in prison if found guilty. Involuntary manslaughter was another complaint brought against the registered nurse.

The CHP reported that after Bronstein's death, it revised its procedures to bar officers from "using techniques or transport methods that involve a substantial risk of positional asphyxia." The uniformed cops were also given further training orders.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation in September 2021 prohibiting police from employing specific face-down holds that have resulted in numerous unintentional fatalities. In the wake of Floyd's murder, the law intended to broaden the state's ban on chokeholds.

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