Reenactment Points To Asphyxiation

“Your safe word is “no” and if you can’t talk, move your arms.” The woman lies down on the beach resting on her stomach, hands behind her back.  To be clear, we’re not shooting a bondage movie.  This is South Beach, at the end of Duval Street, where 61-year-old Charles Eimers died last Thanksgiving Day while being arrested by Key West police officers. The woman on the sand is Naja Girard of The Blue Paper.  We were trying to understand, through a reenactment, the most troubling part of the tragedy:  the cause of death itself.

Medical Examiner E. Hunt Scheuerman’s autopsy report shows no physical evidence that can directly establish the cause of Eimers’ death. However, circumstantial evidence led him to rule out asphyxiation.

This is what he wrote:

“FDLE’s investigation concluded that his face was not forced into the sand, but rather, as he struggled, his face moved back and forth across the sand. Audio recordings from the event revealed that Mr. Eimers repeatedly said “No.” Such verbalization would not have been possible if he had been smothering in the sand.”

In his notes, the Medical Examiner explained that he didn’t review any of the actual audio taped interviews himself, “as they are not my work product. Her [FDLE’s agent Kathy Smith’s] impression of interviews is what I will use.”

Relying exclusively on FDLE agent Kathy Smith, the Medical Examiner concluded that since Eimers didn’t die of asphyxiation, he must have succumbed to cardiac arrest due to a sudden abnormal heart rhythm called ventricular fibrillation, [V-fib] even though the AED supplied by the restaurant, which had been connected immediately to Eimer’s chest at the scene, clearly indicated that his heart was not showing any signs of V-fib.

So, our question was this:  Can a person, lying prone in the sand, actually keep breathing and talking even though he has 400-500 pounds of police officer resting on his shoulders and back?

And, as you can see in the video of our experiment, the answer is clearly “No.”  Without the ability to lift your shoulders off the sand, your chin digs a hole in the sand with each back and forth movement and scoops up more sand.  In two moves, no matter how much you try to raise your head, your face is completely buried. The experiment makes it clear that anyone in this situation would rapidly die of asphyxiation.

Now, let’s compare our experiment with the circumstances of Eimers arrest and let’s verify whether Charles Eimers had the ability to lift his shoulders so that he would not in fact have buried his nose and mouth in the sand.

According to police reports, Eimers was face down in the sand when Seargent Frank Zamora noticed he had turned blue.  Three police officers were reportedly putting their weight on Eimers upper torso and shoulders.

“Sgt. Zamora and I,” wrote Officer Gabriel Garrido in his Incident Report, “remained in control of his [Eimers’] upper body,” Indeed, Sgt. Zamora confirmed, “I assisted by holding the subject down by placing my right knee on his left shoulder.”  In the cell phone video shot by a bystander, a third officer is seen with both knees fixed on Eimers’ left upper torso.  His feet are barely touching the ground, which indicates that all of his weight is on Eimers upper body.

At that point, Officer Thaddeus Calvert observed, “I saw that the suspect was trying to leverage his feet against the beach in an attempt to turn his body around. I grabbed the suspect’s left foot and turned it in a counter direction to assist in keeping him stabilized.”

Three officers would then “assist” by preventing Eimers from turning toward the air:  Officer Nicholas Galbo [who relieved Officer Thaddeus Calvert], and Officer Matthew Johnson [if we exclude Officer Wanciak, who obviously, when reading between the lines of her report, didn’t feel like being at the scene any longer and left.]

Clearly, the situation on Thanksgiving fit the parameters of our experiment:  Eimers was face down in the dry sand and a considerable force was keeping him from raising his shoulders up and away from the sand.  As we have learned, in those conditions, his chin would have quickly dug an asphyxiation hole in the sand.

Even if one disregards the statements made by multiple eyewitnesses about Eimers being elbowed in the back of the head, tased, and having his head held down in the sand by an officer, the simple fact that the officers admit in their incident reports that Eimers’ shoulders were pinned down in the sand and he was moving his head from side to side can only lead to one conclusion about what occurred: A horrible death by suffocation in the dry sand on South Beach.

It appears about certain that anybody in a like situation, regardless of his or her age or physical condition, would have suffered a similar fate.

As suggested by one eyewitness from Maryland who was seated only 10-15 feet away from Mr. Eimers when he turned blue and stopped breathing, “KWPD should never use prone restraint again on sand.”

It is now up to the Grand Jury to decide whether charges should be brought against any of the police officers.

Stay tuned.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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


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!

23 comments on “Reenactment Points To Asphyxiation

  1. Excellent reenactment. It’s factually based on the evidence. The ‘grand jury’ must be taken to that exact location and witness a live demonstration.

    During this recreation, each KWPD police officer will adhere to the visual script set forth in the ‘Video’. If they won’t or can’t participate in this replication of the incident at hand, police officers or volunteers similar in shape and size to the officers in question can fit the bill.

    A narrative (containing officer statements) and other appropriate data can be read and entered into evidence, describing each officers visually verifiable behavior, second by second, frame by frame. Discrepancies will be brought to the attention of the ‘grand jury’.

    A comparison can be made between police officer statements, and the conduct viewed on film.

    State Attorney Vogel, please set the date for your team and the jurors to meet at the scene of Mr. Eimers’ death.

    It appears that the medical examiner’s shoddy and lame work needs to be examined by the Inspector Generals Office and the Grand Jury.

  2. Kowabanga Shazam!!! This video is grossly unfair journalism tactics. Police departments. Internal Affairs, law enforcement oversight agencies (Florida Department of Law Enforcement), State Attorneys, grand juries, plaintiff attorneys, etc., not pesky investigative journalists, have eminent domain over crime scene re-enactments. Maybe KWPD Chief Donie Lee also needs to be invited to the beat down, er, face down beach party. And officer Lovette and his accomplices, er, confederates. And the mayor, city commissioners, city manager and city attorney. Kowabanga Shazam!!!

  3. Wow!!!! You guys are simply amazing. Perhaps FDLE should hire Naja and Arnaud. Seems to me Cathy Smith or Carol Fredericks shoulda thought of this. If it mattered to them. Does it matter? I think FDLE needs new, more passionate employees. That goes for KWTD (Key West Thug Department) also. I originally thought that perhaps KA Wanciak would step forward and clear her name of any involvement. My thought then would have been that, wow, there’s a great cop. Let’s give her Donni Lee’s job. But even she is apparently afraid of the KWTD. There appears to be a festering, highly contagious leprosy of sorts infecting the KWTD. Let’s hope it’s stopped before it affects the entire department. There are some good cops there. Sadly, they are being robbed of their credibility and respect by these officers that are supposed to be their brothers and sisters in arms. Good God, somebody DO something. Hello? FBI???

  4. I would suggest that if you are going to have a re-enactment it should be performed by an unbiased medical professional with no interest in the case.

    • Maybe the Monroe County Medical Examiner should have conducted a re-enactment? Maybe Donie Lee should have? Maybe FDLE should have? Maybe Naja and Arnaud should have gotten 4, or was it only 3, big people to actually put their knees on the backs of the volunteers face-down on the sand? Maybe the volunteers in the re-enactment video should offer to testify before the Grand Jury, while Arnaud plays the video? I imagine a medical professional who might do an re-enactment, besides not being otherwise involved in the Eimers case, would need to be a Medical Examiner, or a retired Medical Examiner. However, based on what I saw in the video, I don’t see a Medical Examiner, or any medical professional, is required to determine whether or not a volunteer face down on the sand in a simulated re-enactment can breathe. The best person to testify as to that is the volunteer face down on the sand, which is what two face down on the sand re-enactment volunteers already testified: they could not breathe.

    • cl i absolutely agree and the grand jury should observe but you think thats going to happen? hell no the big FIX is in and all the wink and nod folks are in high gear right on up thru the med examiner to the SA make no mistake. its a pathetic crock of a cover up bs routine and has been so from the start. what a barf alert this whole ‘official’ non-investigation has been. that poor man was murdered outright by the sadistic ineptitude of the clowns with a badge making a big deal over nothing. rip mr eimers.

  5. and the med examiner didn’t review the audio but relied on the con job…..and of course surely he didn’t review the video on the beach either since it was not a part of the ‘official’ report…wink nod….
    and now we the citizens are expected to have confidence in the kwpd….rightly named the kwtd and i just can’t wait to hear next that chickens have lips and pigs fly comming from our ‘officials’.
    the only gang violence here in kw is that handed to us by the savages dressed in blue. this a key west legacy and such a sorry state of affairs. sickening.

    • The ME did reveal in his notes that he viewed the bystander video with Kathy Smith. He noted that Eimers and the police officers were too far away in the video for it to be of any use to him for purposes of determining cause of death.

  6. Google up the WSJ article regarding Eric Garner of NYC who recently died during an arrest involving a police officer using a choke hold. In this case:
    1)The two officers who first approached Mr. Garner have been placed on administrative duty, with the gun and badge taken from the officer who apparently used the chokehold.
    2) Separately, four emergency responders who were at the scene have been placed on desk duty.
    3)Police Commissioner William Bratton said he would retrain all 35,000 officers on the use of force.

    While it may not be enough, it is far more action than any leadership in KW has taken on the Eimers incident. Leaders take actions…. I wonder if we have any…..because if we don’t we can save a lot of taxpayer money and not have any leaders at all!

  7. Every jurisdiction in the US, along with renowned and notable individuals from around the world, have their eyes focused on the fact that an innocent and defenseless elderly man was killed while in police custody.

    From their perspectives, the uncooperative and remorseless efforts, which have been put forth in stonewalling and whitewashing an honest examination of the details that caused Mr. Eimers to death, are infuriating.

    The cost of this apparent cover-up will break the spirit and coiffeurs of the City.

    I know Governor Scott and Attorney General Bondi, take this tragedy seriously. They are closely reviewing and monitoring every facet of this bumbled, muddled, and possibly criminal inquiry.

    When I find myself in a hole, for one reason or another, I stop digging.

    I know some outstanding members on our State Attorneys’ team, please make your mark on the right side of history.

    • John, Governor Scott recently initiated an Internal Affairs investigation of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection over several alleged misfeasances/malfeasances in its role in Cudjoe Regional Sewer System’s grinder pump permitting. Perhaps Governor Scott will do same in Florida Department of Law Enforcement Eimers investigation. Perhaps he will ask Florida Bondi to investigate FDLE, KWPD, perhaps using a Grand Jury.

      Meanwhile, I imagine a great deal hinges on the local Grand Jury’s investigation and findings.

      I found myself thinking this afternoon that one, perhaps more KWPD officers committed crimes against Charles Eimers on Southbeach. However, what happened between KWPD officers and citizen witnesses after Eimers succumbed on South Beach, and the ensuing machinations and lying and covering up and attempts to get rid of the corpus delecti, Eimers’ body, were just as serious crimes. As might well be what FDLE investigators then did, or didn’t do.

      I hope the local Grand Jury does not focus just on the police who were on top of Eimers at South Beach. I hope the Grand Jury digs into everything the KW police did after Eimers succumbed. I even hope the Grand Jury digs into FDLE’s role, but it might be Bondi is better equipped to do that.

      When I talked about a month ago with our former State Attorney Dennis Ward about FDLE being investigated by State Attorney Catherine Vogel, Dennis said he thought Bondi had jurisdiction, but maybe Vogel could investigate FDLE.

  8. I may have a different perspective of the resistance in this city and its leaders, because of the mayor’s race.

    During the Lodging Association candidate forum last week, we got to ask our opponents a question. I asked Mayor Cates and Margaret Romero if they ever will apologize to the Eimers family for KWPD killing Charles Eimers? Craig said his heart goes out to the Eimers family, but he is waiting on the investigation results to be published. Margaret said she didn’t see the police did anything wrong.

    During opening remarks at the Lodging Association forum, I had said, if elected, the first thing I will do officially is apologize on behalf of Key West to the Eimers family for KWPD killing their father, whom the police had profiled as homeless. That’s why he died, they thought he was homeless.

    My read on the Lodging Association audience’s mood was apathy. Milling around after the forum, nobody said a word to me about the Eimers case.

    Much the same at the Chamber of Commerce forum this past Wednesday, after I said during closing comments (we had no opening comments at that forum), what I would do first, if elected.

    Neither forum asked us about the Eimers case. I interjected it.

    We were not asked about the Eimers case during the Pirate Radio mayor candidates debate yesterday morning. I interjected it.

    We were asked about the homeless problem at all three events. Only I interjected the Eimers case.

    • I cannot speak for Charles’ family but if it were me, an apology would be taken as hollow as long as the murderers, liars, and deceivers are permitted to rule with impunity.

  9. It’s been coming to me today, Naja, that the blue paper and its readers who comment on blue paper Eimers reports, and perhaps blue paper readers who don’t comment, are on the same page, preaching the the choir. However, in the political arena I find myself preaching to much the same choir some of the time, and at other times to another choir altogether.

  10. Critical to any examination of behavior that may be criminal, is the integrity and rectitude of the subsequent investigation.

    Wrongfully accused, wrongfully convicted, along with criminal conduct that is not prosecuted; in most instances, originates from investigators who through incompetence, or deliberate malice, steer the investigation in a self-fulfilling manner.

    Garbage in, garbage out.

    To willfully and with forethought, initiate an investigation that is structurally unsound, is an egregious criminal act. To professionally accept and sanction such an act as an investigator, is a conspiratorial endeavor, designed to defraud our system of justice.

    A police department or state attorneys’ office, as constitutional representatives of law-enforcement and arbitrators of the law, to be complicit in an act of collusion, during a criminal investigation, which may have a pre-determined outcome, violates a plethora of state and federal statutes.

    Even the appearance of impropriety is a cause of grave concern.

    All parties to the Eimers’ investigation were forewarned and put on due notice. Each member, at each locale knew that the FDLE “Rules of Investigative Conduct” were being violated.

    Still, no adjustments or modification were made, so that the truth might be gotten at. No entity sought to remedy this malfeasance; granting the people relief and upholding the marginal investigative standards, that might proffer an accurate account of this tragedy.

    From “Key West The Newspaper”–“The Blue Paper”:

    “After reviewing policies sent by FDLE, the Keynoter headlined its article: FDLE: No Conflict In Agent Leading Probe of Man’s Death Even Though Investigation Involves Her Ex-husband. However, when FDLE forwarded its conflict of interest policies to the media, it conveniently left out the one which speaks directly to the issue: Rule 7.1 of FDLE’s “Ethical Standards of Conduct,” reviewable on their website. It reads:

    “Police officers shall, unless required by law or policy, refrain from becoming involved in official matters, or influencing actions of other police officers in official matters, impacting the officer’s immediate family, relatives, or persons with whom the officer has or has had a significant personal relationship.”

    It is difficult to comprehend how FDLE could find that being the ex-wife and mother of the child of one of the subjects of an investigation does not fall under the clear prohibition set out by FDLE’s Rule 7.1.”

  11. Sloan,

    As usual, cogent and precise comments. Your leadership qualities far offset any quirks one might have, concerning your spiritual relationship with the God of your understanding. Have we not the freedom to worship and speak of our God in a manner congruent with our beliefs?

    Thank you for your astute and penetrating contributions to the discussion.

    Perhaps the Lodging Association, Chamber of Commerce and Pirate Radio forum have prioritized their allegiances; rendering tribute and worship to their deity, the ‘almighty dollar’.

    Apathy, indifference and greed are narcissistic plagues that appear to be cannibalizing the remaining decency and attractiveness of Key West.

    Yes, everyone is beautiful in their own way, however, just because someone is in a position of authority, it doesn’t mean that they can get away with murder.

    I will not remain silent, when a Brother or Sister, appears, to have been injured or killed by an agency birthed to ‘protect and serve’ the public. An individual who voluntarily takes an oath to defend the rights delineated in our Constitution, cannot ignore their pledge.

    Governments, police departments and politicians are my servants. I pay their salaries. They are not my master.

    ” And that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”.

    Unfortunately, It appears to have perished for Mr. Eimers.

    With all the injustice that can come from living an alternative lifestyle, along with the rugged individualism established by the pioneering nature of the ‘Key West’s Conchs’, I’m surprised by their relative silence on this matter.

    Through my years, I’ve come to find out that it takes only one person, to change the world.

    There are many extraordinarily brilliant and determined professionals advancing the cause of justice for Mr. Eimers. They will not rest until their goals and objectives are accomplished.

    • Morning, John, others. Thanks, Josh, for weighing in under the witness intimidation article. We are so very sorry for your loss, and are so very embarrassed and outraged. Alas, John, my quirks are all too real to me. The angels infused me with a horrible toxic something last night, rendering me wishing they would go ahead and finish me off. They took me to many places in dreams , before giving me a coded instruction in my sleep: “6 and 2″. 6 means Melchizedek. 2 Means Jesus. Combined, they mean rough going and straight talk. It means, John, that I am dealing head on with Evil, which I more often call Lucifer.

      Whatever is people’s understanding, or not, there is only one God, on which no religion or sect has a lock. God is beyond religion and sects, which attempt to shrink God down to something manageable and safe to them. Angels are beyond human comprehension, too. I endure them, because I have no choice; they own me, and, yes, that makes me real darn quirky.

      That aside, the “Attorneys: Eimers wasn’t as sick as coroner said” article in today’s Citizen, about Charles Eimers’ actual medical condition last Thanksgiving Day, leaves me feeling all the more that his time was up and he was used in the way that best served God in that moment: to expose Key West in a way it could not otherwise be exposed. Charles was the instrument the angels used, his soul agreed to it. Charles’ person signaled that by telling the cop who made the traffic stop, that he had come to Key West to do God’s work, which he then quickly proceeded to do.

      Perhaps I’m mistaken, but right now it looks to me that the most important thing is for the local Grand Jury to leave no stones unturned in its investigation. Speaking from having practiced law, I think the Grand Jury has powers to investigate, which are broader and deeper than a plaintiff lawyer has in civil litigation. I think the Grand Jury can subpoena witnesses, including the KWPD cops involved in the Eimers case. I don’t know if the Grand Jury can subpoena FDLE people involved in the Eimers case.

      I think the Grand Jury can subpoena any physical evidence, including Charles Eimers’ drivers license. I’d like for the Grand Jury to see proof that Eimers drove off without his driver’s license. I’d like the Grand Jury to see what shape the driver’s license is in. Does it look okay? Is it bent or creased? If bent or creased, why?

      Someone told me a while back that a KW cop took his driver’s license and said he wasn’t going to give it back. My friend disagreed. The cop started bending the license back and forth. When the licence was creased, the cop gave it back to my friend and left him. My friend said he went to the driver’s license office on South Roosevelt Blvd and told a woman staff worker what had happened, and she said KW cops do that to driver’s licenses of people they believe are homeless, to alert the next cop having dealings with that person that they are dealing with a homeless person.

      Maybe Eimers’ driver’s license is not bent or creased. That that needs to be determined, is all I’m saying, by the Grand Jury. And if the KWPD says it does not have Eimers’ driver’s license, what does that say to the Grand Jury?

    • “An individual who voluntarily takes an oath to defend the rights delineated in our Constitution, cannot ignore their pledge.”

      and yet you proudly proclaim your “service” in Vietnam, which was a clear violation of the constitution.

      Interesting.

  12. Keysbum,

    Again, I thank you for your post. I believe your comment would be best served if it appeared in the comment section related to my article on “Leadership”…. If you like, I will address future inquires there…

    The following is taken from “Tenth Amendment Center”, Online, entitled “Only Congress Can Declare War”

    by Michael Boldin

    The framers of the Constitution attempted to balance the power of the President as commander-in-chief with that of Congress, the representatives of the People.

    Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution gives to the Executive Branch the command of the nation’s armed forces, while Article I, Section 8 gives to the Legislative Branch the power to decide when the United States goes to war.

    Presidential candidate, Bob Barr has taken a strong stand in support of the Constitution in a recent post on his website:

    “Former Secretaries of State James Baker and Warren Christopher have proposed a new statute to encourage the president and Congress to cooperate in going to war. But the Constitution already sets forth a clear rule: Congress, and only Congress, is tasked with declaring war,” explains Bob Barr, the Libertarian Party presidential candidate. “Absent exigent circumstances, like defending against a surprise attack, only Congress has the authority to take America into a conflict.”

    When crafting the Constitution, the founders weighed the individual will of the Executive against the deliberative function of the Legislature, whose constituents would bear the full costs of any war.

    Thus, the framers deliberately separated the powers of declaring and waging war; they confined these powers in such a way so as to thwart the tyranny of kings.

    Despite being known as one of the greatest champions of centralized power of the times, even Alexander Hamilton felt that the President must generally bow to Congressional directions in times of peace and also in times of war. He stated this clearly in Federalist #69:

    “The President is to be commander-in-chief of the army and navy of the United States. In this respect, his authority would be nominally the same with that of the king of Great Britain, but in substance much inferior to it. It would amount to nothing more than the supreme command and direction of the military and naval forces.; while that of the British king extends to the declaring of war and to the raising and regulating of fleets and armies – all which, by the Constitution under consideration, would appertain to the legislature.”

    Our nation’s founders were far from perfect, and at times, inconsistent and unjust; but, on the powers of war, they were unwavering, and their principles were sound.

    Barr again shines in his recognition of the separation of war-declaring vs war-making powers:
    “presidents must acknowledge that being military commander-in-chief does not entitle them to take the nation into war. Rather, they are to fight only conflicts authorized by Congress,” Barr observes. “At the same time, Congresses must be willing to confront tough issues, rather than leave them for the president. Legislators have no higher responsibility under the Constitution and to the voters than to decide when Americans must fight abroad.”

    One obvious reason for dividing the war powers was to prevent such massive powers from being placed in the hands of one person, the President.
    The framers understood that, throughout history, rulers of nations worldwide had begun wars strictly on the basis of international politics or personal desires.

    They clearly understood that rulers would often get the urge to remove foreign public officials, or dictate the policies of foreign nations, and that such urges are dangerous to liberty, no matter what the reason.

    The reason for entrusting the Legislature with the power to declare war was to ensure that the People would be involved in the decision as much as was physically possible.

    What the Framers did not imagine was a weak and ineffectual Congress that failed to claim its rightful authority in deciding when the nation would go to war, or a power-hungry President that wouldn’t refuse an extra-constitutional transfer of such power from Congress.

    By rejecting the advice and the rules laid down by the founders and early Presidents, our recent leaders have gone so far astray from warnings against entangling alliances, that the founders would hardly recognize the government they created.

    Policing the world and “spreading democracy” is not our calling. Additionally, no such action is permitted by the Constitution.

    Michael Boldin [send him email] is the founder of the Tenth Amendment Center
    Copyright © 2008 by TenthAmendmentCenter.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

  13. Charles John taught me many things through my life. The main thing he expressed was to treat others with compassion. I can’t count the times he went out of his way to help someone in need. He’d always say “you never know when it might be you in need. He picked up a hitch hiker once and drove him probably 50 miles out of our way and when we stop he gave him some money a pack of cigarettes and his redwing work boots. Charles would have been an asset to key west. When he said he was going to Gods work he meant volunteering and helping anyone in need. He never saw material value. His children’s friends that were poor he made a point to feed they were always welcome. Nobody went hungry around Charles John. He will be missed dearly. A kind and unique person I’ll never forget.

    • Much love to you on your loss. Charles sounds like an amazing person who would have done amazing things here. You are all the richer having known him. Charles was a treasure that you, his family, and ultimately Key West had stolen from them by the KWTD and their disgusting actions. Hopefully, his death will not be in vain, the people responsible will pay and this will never happen to anyone else.

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