According to new information obtained by The Blue Paper, KWPD officers covered up the true circumstances surrounding Charles Eimers’ death. This could have sent paramedics on the wrong path and might even have jeoparidized Eimers’ chances of survival.
For Charles Eimers, it was the first day of a new life. He had finally retired after 30 + years working in an auto manufacturing plant in Michigan. With a full pension and medical he was going to spend a winter in sunny Key West.
“He wanted to take it easy, maybe volunteer for some charities. That’s the kind of guy he was, he would have given the shirt off his back,” says Eimers’ daughter Erica Garcia.
But none of that was going to happen; no visits from the grandkids or relaxing days at the beach. By the end of his first day – Thanksgiving Day – 61 year old Charles Eimers, mistaken for a homeless man, would mysteriously fall into a coma while in the hands of Key West’s finest. He would die a week later after being taken off life support at Lower Keys Medical Center (LKMC).
The circumstances of his death have since become the center of serious controversy. Why did eleven of the twelve police officers who were involved refuse to file supplemental reports? Why was an eyewitness ordered by a KWPD detective not to talk to us? Was it really just an accident when Eimers’ body nearly got cremated before an autopsy could take place? Why, to this day, has the witness who heard a police officer accusing another officer of having “murdered that man” still not been interviewed by investigators?
The family of Charles Eimers has now shared with The Blue Paper some of the records pertaining to the medical care given to Charles Eimers by EMS and LKMC. What is revealed is evidence of a deliberate cover-up. A tragic but dumbfounding trail of lies planted by Key West police officer(s), caught and consigned to a ledger of daily reports, filed away at LKMC.
But first we must remind the reader that the arrest was caught on video by a bystander and posted online by The Blue Paper. Thousands of people have seen that, contrary to police officers’ allegations, Charles Eimers did not get out of his car running and swinging at the police. In fact, Eimers is seen calmly walking away from his car and obeying every order the police is giving him, lying on the sand until they jump on his back. The video stops before it’s all over but five minutes later he would be as good as dead.
According to several witnesses who were on South Beach that morning, Eimers was shocked multiple times with a stun gun. While lying prone facedown on the beach, his nose and mouth caked with sand, he turned blue, became limp, and fell unconscious. The medical examiner has since ruled out a heart attack. One of the only remaining explanations is restraint asphyxia; a tragic scenario where an arrestee’s struggle to breathe is misconstrued by officers as resisting arrest, resulting in additional use of force until it is too late.
What’s shown in the video, of course, was not the official version told by KWPD to the family or the media, nor is it, as you will now read, the story told by the officer(s) to EMS and hospital staff.
EMS was called by KWPD.
November 28, 2013: “Med 2 dispatched to an unknown age [male] involved in a KWPD vehicle chase. KWPD reported PT left vehicle and ran then collapsed on the beach. EMS arrived on scene to find PT on the ground with KWFD providing chest compressions.”
From that point it would take nearly 15 minutes for EMS to leave the scene and begin transporting Eimers to the hospital and another 22 minutes for the ambulance to reach the ER on Stock Island. Why it took so long is still a mystery.
Did EMS waste time trying to address the illusory heart failure instead of rushing to the ER to address likely asphyxiation?
At the hospital, the doctors and nurses were apparently told the same story about the circumstances surrounding the “medical incident”. Dr. Sarahi Rodriguez-Perez wrote, “Patient got out of car and proceeded to flee from the police while running on the beach away from law enforcement and patient collapsed. Patient was found without a pulse by police. He was given CPR. EMS was called. Brought him in, he had pulse.”
The hospital then tested Charles Eimers for drugs and alcohol: “urine drug screen is negative (…). Alcohol level is less than 10 [ten]” [which is normal]
Based on the KWPD version of events Dr. Rodriguez-Perez noted the following assessment: “Cardiac arrest was most likely secondary to a malignant arrhythmia from underlying severe non-ischemic cardiomyopathy and hemodynamic support.” In other words, the doctor speculated that Eimers had succumbed to a heart attack due to a pre-existing condition. [However, the medical examiner did not find evidence of a sudden heart attack when conducting the autopsy.]
But then the next day, Eimers appears to be getting better in some ways,
November 29, 2013 : “eyes open, having spontaneous respiration over mechanical ventilator. Regular heart rate: tachycardic… BP [blood pressure] better today. Has recovered brain stem reflexes…”
On the 30th, the hospital takes a second set of chest x-rays and finds no bone fractures, which is strange considering that the medical examiner found 10 broken ribs. So, when were the ribs broken? At Dean Lopez mortuary? How is that possible?
November 30, 2013: The hospital discovers signs of “extensive brain damage” “consistent with severe anoxic encephalopathy” which means he suffered brain damage due to lack of oxygen.
On the morning of December 2, 2014, Doctor Boros makes an assessment of “brain death”. At this point the hospital has had the patient’s medical history [including the name of a doctor who treated him in Michigan] for five days, but Eimers’ son Treavor had still not been contacted. KWPD would make contact later that day.
Finally on December 3, 2013: “poor prognosis and practically no possibility for recovery; on full support now. Will call son and discuss the possibility of DO NOT RESUSCITATE and withdrawing support as there is no possibility of recovery, quality of care and the patient will persist in a vegetative state.”
December 4 @ 6:52 p.m.: “death”
December 4 @9:45 p.m.: “Dean Lopez here for patient. Patient discharged to Dean Lopez. All belongings with patient.”
December 15, 2013: “Expiration Summary (Dr. Sarahi Rodriguez-Perez)
Narrative: Brought to ER by EMS after he collapsed on the field. Collapse was witnessed. Cops initiated CPR. Since moment of admission, he manifested signs of encephalopathy … Never recovered neurological wise.”
So, all the way to the end, the same story, made-up by police officers, about Charles Eimers running away and collapsing on the beach remained the official story at LKMC. A story that thousands of people who have watched the video of Eimers’ arrest know to be a complete fabrication.
We are told by Treavor Eimers that several medical records appear to be missing. For instance, there should be ER/triage notes showing observations noted when Eimers was initially brought to the ER and discharge notes explaining why the body was not sent for autopsy. A page detailing the last 45 minutes of life and post-death instructions is also missing.
Medical professionals we’ve consulted believe that hospital staff could not and did not make a determination as to the exact cause of death. It is easy to see, however, how the police officers’ cover-up of the true circumstances surrounding Eimers’ loss of consciousness could have led doctors to believe Charles Eimers had succumbed to a death by natural causes with no one to blame. In fact, the first death certificate reportedly read: “death by natural causes” which allowed the body to be sent to Dean Lopez Funeral Home for cremation rather than to the medical examiner’s lab for autopsy. And it almost worked. “It’s a miracle that the body was not cremated,” Robert Dean of Dean Lopez Funeral Home told The Blue Paper.
Had it not been for a tip we received from an eyewitness, this story would never have been told. “They had me believing my father died of a sudden heart attack,” says Treavor. Under Florida law the body of any person who dies “in custody” must be sent to the county medical examiner for an autopsy. But in the medical reports it is unclear whether the hospital actually knew that Eimers was “under arrest”. [Remember, the police said he didn’t have a pulse when they caught up with him.] This however does not reconcile with the hospital’s description of “ecchymosis on the wrists and abdomen” and “bruising all quadrants” which is consistent with handcuffs and a brutal arrest.
No mention is made of the sand that witnesses say was caked up inside of Eimers’ nose and mouth. What happened to the ten broken ribs which hadn’t shown up on three different x-rays of Eimers’ chest performed at the hospital, but appeared in the medical examiner’s report? As to marks left by a taser or stun gun that police say was not used, could they have disappeared into the “bruising of all quadrants”?
EMS’ response is also somewhat questionable. “I see them [paramedics] coming in the restaurant quite often,” remembers one witness who was working on South Beach that morning, “they walk faster when they come in to have breakfast than they were walking when they came here to save that man. I couldn’t believe it.”
KWPD records show that officers believed Eimers was homeless. An ER nurse described him as “unkempt”. Did officers tell EMS that a homeless man (uninsured) had suffered a heart attack? Studies have shown that uninsured persons have a much higher chance of dying in medical hands than insured persons.
But now comes the harrowing question: Would Eimers have stood a better chance of survival had the police told EMS and hospital staff the truth? If, instead of chasing an illusory heart attack suffered by a man who had been running down a beach before collapsing, the EMS had been told of the possible asphyxiation of a man gasping for air while perceived as resisting arrest, would things have been different? The paramedics and hospital staff were there to save a man’s life. Shouldn’t they have been told the truth? Would they have moved faster? Taken different measures? Could Charles Eimers have survived?
To view all Blue Paper articles on the death of Charles Eimers click here.