Family is awarded $1.8 million after their son died while in police custody
A California family was awarded nearly $1.8 million after an Anaheim jury ruled that police officers were primarily responsible for the death of a 35-year-old man in 2018.
Christopher Eisinger died in March 2018 in an encounter with officers from the Anaheim Police Department. The officers were responding to a report of an auto burglary when officers said Eisinger attempted to open the side gate of a nearby residence, leading to a pursuit, according to a report from the Orange County District Attorney’s office.
Body camera footage from the evening shows multiple officers chasing Eisinger, before pinning him down while Eisinger struggles. In the footage, Eisinger can be heard saying “just shoot me” after an officer says, “stop resisting.”
Around five minutes into the video, Eisinger became quiet and then unresponsive, and officers called for paramedics, according to the district attorney’s office. Paramedics arrived five minutes later and began CPR on Eisinger, whose pulse returned a minute after CPR was started, the report says.
Eisinger was admitted to West Anaheim Medical Center in critical condition and was later transferred to Hoag Hospital “due to the deteriorating condition of his health,” the report says. Eisinger died on March 10, eight days after the incident.
Annee Della Donna, an attorney representing Eisinger’s mother Katrina, told CNN that Eisinger had a history of mental illness and was seeking rehabilitation for addiction.
On Thursday, an Anaheim jury awarded $2,275,000 to Eisinger’s family, which will be reduced to about $1.8 million because the panel determined that officers were 78% responsible for Eisinger’s death, Della Donna said.
The district attorney’s office had previously cleared the officers of criminal fault, saying in its report that Eisinger “died as a result of his decision to exert himself while suffering from hypertrophy and dilation of the heart, recent and chronic substance abuse, and a myriad of associated health problems.”
The district attorney’s report cited the Orange County coroner’s office determination that the cause of death was “sudden cardiac arrest” due to coronary artery disease and the effects of methamphetamine.
Della Donna, however, said that police officers pinned Eisinger to the ground face down, making it difficult for him to breath and ultimately leading to his death, according to CNN affiliate KCAL.
“We are really excited about the verdict and very hopeful for the future of (police) accountability in this country,” Della Donna told CNN.
The city of Anaheim disagrees with the jury’s decision, spokesperson Mike Lyster said in a statement.
“Our officers responded to a resident’s call for help on a burglary in progress. At all times, our officers acted responsibly in their duty to uphold public safety,” the statement said. “At no time did they use force that could be seen as excessive for the challenging situation they faced. Any loss of life is tragic. Sadly, this case speaks to the devastating and undeniable impact of methamphetamine on people, families and communities.”
In the statement, Lyster did not confirm whether the city would appeal the decision but said city officials will “evaluate this outcome and consider any next steps.”