Citizen Review Board Concerned About Eimers In-Custody Death

Charles Eimers Photo provided by Treavor Eimers

Charles Eimers Photo provided by Treavor Eimers

“I am deeply concerned by the circumstances surrounding the in-custody death of Charles Eimers,” CRB [Citizen Review Board] member Tom Milone said Wednesday.

The controversy about the Thanksgiving morning death on South Beach of 61-year old Charles Eimers continues to grow.  Thousands of people have reviewed the video of Charles Eimer’s arrest published by The Blue Paper and have been disturbed by the irreconcilable differences between the events shown in the video and the account initially proffered by the police department.

“There is particular concern over the use of prone restraint,” says Tom Milone,  “We’re considering reviewing the procedures in light of the incident with Charles Eimers and the growing concern about the risk of using that method in the sand.”  The CRB has asked the police department to explain the existing polices at their next scheduled meeting.

The question, says David Paul Horan, attorney for the Eimers’ family, “is where do you use the prone restraint method?  Would you use it in the water?  Should you use it in the sand?”

Milone is especially concerned with the risk of asphyxiation. “Because you’re gasping for air, you appear to be resisting police, and they impose more force on you,” he said at the board’s Monday night meeting.

Interestingly enough, the CRB is poised to revisit an issue which twelve years ago was the very reason for its creation:  the use of excessive force by Key West Police Officers – and particularly excessive force used against homeless people or people, like Charles Eimers, who were perceived to be homeless.

Use of excessive force by KWPD officers at the time was rampant.  One officer, Michael Beerbower had made a name for himself for his particularly poor bedside manner.  However the perception at the time was that Buz Dillon, then Chief of Police, was doing little to nothing to curb such behavior.

Then fresh out of law school, attorney Sam Kaufman, took him to task and the tension started growing.  Back then Kaufman would receive standing ovations from the inmates when he visited the jail.  And then came the big break:  Officer Austin, who had been on the force for only 7 months, broke the sacrosanct ‘code of silence’ and Dennis Reeves Cooper, then editor/publisher of Key West The Newspaper was right there week after week reporting the news (and even getting arrested for it himself by the Chief – which brought national attention to the situation.)

Austin spilled the beans on the excessive force used by Officers Ron Ramsey and Michael Beerbower in a July 6, 2000 incident.

“Austin,” wrote Dennis Reeves Cooper, “told investigators that he was holding the handcuffed Stambaugh face down on the ground “when Ramsey came up behind my left shoulder, kneeled next to me, looked in both directions, then gave the defendant another short blast of pepperspray. It took effect immediately.,” Austin said.  “The defendant screamed in pain.” Stambaugh was then placed in the back seat of a patrol car.  At that point, Beerbower allegedly also paid Stambaugh a little visit.  While Austin and other police officers watched, Beerbower allegedly opened the back door of the patrol car and punched Stambaugh in the face with his fist.  Stambaugh was still handcuffed and recovering from being peppersprayed. A few minutes later, Beerbower reportedly returned to the car and punched Stambaugh in the face again. Austin told investigators that other officers watching Beerbower batter Stambaugh were shouting to him the word “Clear!” when, apparently, there did not seem to be any witnesses nearby.”

Even after Austin formally reported the story to Internal Affairs investigators, the police department took little or no action.

Sam Kaufman and his group gathered the 1400 signatures required to put a referendum question on the ballot and on November 2, 2002, 60% of voters supported the creation of an independent Citizen Review Board that would investigate complaints against police.   The CRB was born.

Last Monday the board made plain that when all of the relevant information is in, it will not shy away from reviewing the death of Charles Eimers, probably the most controversial incident to have hit the KWPD in over a decade.

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To access all Blue Paper coverage on the death of Charles Eimers click here.

 

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COMMENT:  (contact info for attorney for Charles Eimers’ family:  http://www.horan-wallace.com/attorney-profiles/david-horan/)

  • Lacey Oliver Hernandez I believe that any additional information could be reported to Chief Lee, however due to the fact that he was also trying to initially hide the truth from the Eimers’ family, as well as the Key West citizens, that any additional information should be provided to the family’s attorney named in the article. Obviously the Key West police force is corrupt and violent beyond imagination and any additional witnesses will be frightened to come forward with what they saw, so perhaps some contact information for the family’s attorney could be utilized by any person happening to wish to come forward without fearing the backlash of KWPD…..
Key West The Newspaper [The Blue Paper] encourages spirited, open debate in comments on our stories. We do ask that you refrain from profanity, personal attacks and remarks that are off point. Please join the conversation!

7 comments on “Citizen Review Board Concerned About Eimers In-Custody Death

  1. I have learned that these types of police abuses involving the prone restraint and some others have been happening across the country.
    I have left messages and written letters to state Rep Holly Rascheins and State Senator Dwight Bullard. I sent them videos of people being killed by police with these deadly holds.I asked them now that you know people are being killed, how can we expect corrective legislation from both of you ?
    Neither one of them has responded back ? Am I the only one out there calling and writting our elected officials ?http://dailycaller.com/2014/02/25/horror-cops-tackle-beat-pepper-spray-pin-suffocate-kill-innocent-man/

  2. I attended the recent CRB meeting, as did Todd German, the CRB’s first Chairman. We both spoke to the CRB from our own experiences with the CRB, in which I had been initially involved gaining signatures. After the referendum passed, I disengaged from the CRB because I was prejudiced against the KWPD and did not think I should be involved in being in on who was chosen to be on the first CRB. I later became friends with Buz Dillon and, while Sam Kaufman was giving them hell as a lawyer, I was lobbying Buz to rein in his cowboy cops who were making homeless people miserable for the fun of it.

    During that time, Sam and I talked from time to time. We became friends and he became my lawyer. We had first met in the spring of 2001, at Mallory Pier, when he met with a number of homeless people who were upset about being arrested for open container. After speaking with them, Sam and I wandered off alone and he asked me what I thought about the selective enforcement issue – I had told him that I once had practiced law. I said I thought there was an equal protection violation, but I myself could not bring myself to ask a local judge to make it easier for homeless people to drink themselves to death. I said I felt there were other homeless issues, especially police brutality, which were more important. I was homeless at that time, and later.

    My impression at the CRB meeting was there were 4 CRB members, Tom Milone was one, who wanted the CRB to make a public statement of its interest in the Eimers case, and there were two members, including the Chairman, who wanted to keep a low profile pending the completion of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation and that report being made public. It was agreed among the CRB members that Gwen Filosa’s article on that meeting, Gwen was there taking notes furiously, would get the word out to the public that the CRB was interested in the Eimer’s case. Gwen’s article did that two days following.

    One CRB member said it had been reported that the hostess at the beach club at South Beach had seen the whole event and then had been talked with by several police officers and impressed with her need to keep quiet about what she had seen. This CRB member came back to that a couple of more times. Todd German, also a friend of mine, told me the next day that the CRB’s lawyer had told him that day that, if the hostess was threatened by the police officers, that was far worse witness tampering than what Jim Hendrick had been prosecuted for, and convicted. More than just witness tampering, also obstruction of justice and conspiracy, I thought.

    At last week’s City Commission, during citizen comments, I said the reason Eimers’ died was because he was initially profiled as being homeless, and it has for some time been the city’s policy to have its police to do all possible to cause homeless people to leave the area. I said Eimer’s death was the city’s karma for its homeless policy and that karma might get pretty rough now that the Eimers’ family is represented by counsel.

    After speaking with Naja Girard about it, and she encouraged me to do it, I sent this email a few days ago.

    From: keysmyhome@hotmail.com
    To: pclarin@keysnews.com; gmaitland@keysnews.com; sfrederick@keysnews.com; alindhardt@keysnews.com; tdgerman@my100bank.com; editor@thebluepaper.com; dlee@keywestcity.com; ccates@keywestcity.com; tjohnston@keywestcity.com; bvitas@keywestcity.com; sdsmith@keywestcity.com
    Subject: letter to the editor
    Date: Sun, 23 Feb 2014 11:18:15 -0500

    Letter to the editor to the Key West Citizen:

    A while back, I received an out of the blue email from someone out west, who once had lived in Key West, about the video of the Thanksgiving Day apprehension by KWPD officers of Charles Eimers on South Beach in Key West, which Eimers did not survive. Here’s a link to that video , which is in first Key West the Newspaper article on that sad story. I include the link because the Citizen has run several articles on Eimers’ death, which mentioned the video, but the link was not provided for Citizen readers to see the video for themselves.
    The correspondent said he recognized an old Key West friend in the video, walking on the South Beach pier, looking back at the KWPD apprehending Eimers. The correspondent said his friend on the pier was named Dustin, and at one time he lived in the Porter Place housing project at Trumbo Point, operated by the Housing Authority. The correspondent declined to provide Dustin’s last name. A friend of mine living at Porter Place said he knew a Dustin, but not his last name, who had lived in Porter place, perhaps still did, but my friend did not know which apartment.
    The Housing Authority does not provide information on its residents. Perhaps if the Citizen publishes this letter to the editor, Dustin, if he is still around Key West, will see or hear of it and be inclined to contact Police Chief Donnie Lee, the Citizen and Key West the Newspaper, so they can ask him what, if anything, he saw happen when Charles Eimers was apprehended on South Beach.
    Sloan Bashinsky
    1711 Seminary Street
    Key West 33040
    (305) 407-4285

    Todd German, who sits on the Citizen Editorial Board, later told me that he didn’t think the Citizen would publish the letter, because I had named someone and the Citizen does not publish names. I said I saw no other way but to publish Dustin’s first name, he’s a material witness, how else to get the word out that Naja and Arnaud, at least,wish to speak with him about what he may have seen and heard that terrible day at South Beach?

  3. The video provided by Fred and Sister is powerful. The description of what led up to Mr. Rodriguez being killed by the police is a chilling example of a government style murder. This innocent and unarmed man endured this criminal and horrific beating in front of his wife and daughter, for no reason.

    Swift and harsh punitive consequences for police officers who have engaged in this type of contact, has for the most part not happened. All of the 12 police officers who murdered Arthur McDuffie went free. These police massacres will continue, as long as they do not have to pay a price for unlawfully taking a life.

    I’m ashamed to live in a country where the police attack and kill innocent individuals. I’ve seen too much of it. Not too long ago my life was threatened by a law enforcement agency representing the State. They were prevented from murdering an innocent man. Their criminal enterprise had been exposed. They wanted to get rid of their problem.

    It’s difficult for me to watch Mr. Rodriguez being slaughtered by 5 men who call themselves police officers. It’s unfathomable that this conduct continues in the United States of America.

    During the 53 second video of Mr. Eimers’ arrest, I did not see the same degree of violence and viciousness, as was displayed by the police during their killing of Mr. Rodriguez. However, the result was the same.

    My hope is to assemble a team that will apply political pressure to rectify the strategies, tactics and protocols that go into these deadly police encounters.

    Fred and Sister, your video of the “Rodriguez Murder” is a clear record of police brutality. Your courageous pursuit of justice for Mr. Eimers and his family, reflects your distinguished character and compassionate hearts. Thank you.

    Arnaud and Naja, without your taking on the intricacies of a delicate case, this man would have died an unknown death. Thank you for pressing on with your brilliant coverage.

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