CHARLES EIMERS UPDATE: Police, Death, and Missing Videotapes

Charles Eimers Photo provided by Treavor Eimers

Charles Eimers Photo provided by Treavor Eimers

No trial yet, but the weeklong depositions of Key West police officers involved in the in-custody death of Charles Eimers were filled with eye-popping revelations and admissions about possible excessive force and cover-up.  Officers had to admit that only one of the long-awaited 9 [or so] police cruiser dashcam external microphone recordings is available, multiple dashcam videos have gone missing, and crucial footage captured by Officer Gary Lee Lovette’s Taser has been erased.  Finally, allegations surfaced that a witness saw police officers on scene deleting a second bystander video that showed footage of the entire arrest.  Officers’ testimony also confirmed a tense altercation had occurred on scene between a KWPD officer and a vacationing New York police officer who had described what he saw as “legalized murder on the beach.”

The death of the 61-year old tourist, Charles Eimers, while in the hands of Key West police officers captured national attention last year.  Eimers was dead before the end of the first day of his vacation in Key West.  CBS News reported his “Death in Paradise” after a bystander video was published in The Blue Paper contradicting the police department’s official version of events. As it turned out Eimers had not collapsed from a heart attack while running away from the police as was originally reported by KWPD.  Rather, the Medical Examiner listed his struggle, beneath the weight of multiple police officers, as a contributing factor in his death.

And this week, the six-foot tall, 220-pound [on average] officers were tip-toeing around the difficult exercise of demonstrating to the Eimers family attorneys that they could not have suffocated the old man and actually had done everything by the book.

Officers Gary Lovette, Thaddeus Calvert, Gustavo Medina, Henry Delvalle, Kathy Ann Wanciak, Gabriel Garrido, Todd Stevens, and Pablo Rodriguez showed up for their depositions at the federal courthouse where the evidence of cover-up often trumped the excessive force issue.

More Missing Recordings

Obviously frustrated by the disappearance of so much direct and critical evidence,  Eimers family attorney, Robert McKee, had strong words during the depositions, “Wouldn’t you agree that deliberate destruction of evidence is a crime?” he asked KWPD former detective Todd Stevens on Thursday.  “Yes,” said Stevens.  “And that the failure to collect evidence in connection with a possible murder case is also a wrong?”  “If it’s intentional,” agreed Stevens.  This issue surfaced repeatedly throughout the week.

Officer Lovette admitted that he had activated his Taser video during the arrest.  “Can you think of any more objective piece of evidence as to what happened on the beach?” asked David Brill, one of the Eimers family attorneys.  Officer Lovette agreed, but said he had no idea how the Taser video showing the actual arrest had been erased.  Strangely enough other incriminating footage was still intact, including some that was captured when Lovette inadvertently recorded his own private conversations.  He is heard admitting it was an “in-custody murder,” to having “dropped like a f***ing” bomb on his [Eimers’] head” and advising fellow officers that they “should all get together and work that shit out” [referring to writing up their supplemental reports], and “we might as well just bury him” [rather than taking him to the hospital].

Interestingly, Lovette’s dashcam video also disappeared.  Lovette testified that not only was the dashcam on and recording that morning, but also that he personally reviewed the video at the police station not long after the incident.  However, he testified that at that time the end of it had been missing and nothing pertaining to the area of the arrest at South Beach was there. “It cut off for an unknown reason.  I don’t know why,” said Lovette, “ I remember watching it and saying, ‘Where is the rest of it?’” “Did you complain?” asked Brill. “No, but I was under the impression that the entire incident had been recorded,” Lovette stated.

But the mystery gets darker.  In fact, according to the Eimers family attorneys, David Paul Horan and Darren Horan, the Police Department now claims that Lovette’s dashcam video of the Eimers incident does not exist; they are unable to produce even the shortened version Lovette claims he had reviewed.

When it was Officer Garrido’s turn to testify, again we learned that his dashcam video had mysteriously disappeared.  Officer Wanciak’s microphone was “out of battery power” and all in all, in spite of the fact that a Sergeant is heard on the police radio ordering all of the officers to activate their dashcam systems, only one external mic recording has been turned over for the approximately 9 officers who responded.  Officer Medina’s external mic provided some audio but curiously the sound becomes garbled immediately after someone is heard screaming.  That is, presumably, the moment when Officer Garrido allegedly got his finger caught in his own cuff. According to the Eimers’ family attorneys, as we would later find out, it was the beginning of Eimers’ “resistance” and his impending demise.

The disappearance of civilian witnesses was another recurrent theme.  Every officer testified that they were well aware that the contact information of every person present was to be recorded.  According to Todd Stevens, they were supposed to be “stopping people from leaving the scene who might have been witnesses.”  Officer Delvalle however admitted to having chased away the witnesses on the pier where tourists had captured two videos.

“Are you aware,” asked Brill, “that a witness observed two police officers walk toward a tourist who had recorded video on the pier and delete his video?” [Would that be the second video, the one captured by a man seen walking down the pier filming in the first video published by The Blue Paper two weeks after Eimers’ death?]

Similarly, Officer Kathy Ann Wanciak confirmed that, in the area of the restaurant, she had had a confrontation with a visiting New York police officer who had claimed that KWPD officers had “murdered” Eimers.  Wanciak, however, didn’t have him fill out a witness statement form or take his contact information.  She denied having threatened to arrest the man; a statement contradicted by civilian witnesses.  That particularly valuable witness has not been found to this day.

“Isn’t it true that not taking his information lends to covering up the incident?” asked McKee. “Yes,” answered Officer Thaddeus Calvert when questioned about Wanciak’s inaction.

What Happened On the Beach

The embattled Officer Lovette was often at a loss in trying to explain away the incriminating statements he’d made about his and Officer Gabriel Garrido’s involvement.   On the Taser video when asked who had roughed Eimers up – Lovette responds “mostly me” and when asked who killed [Charles Eimers] he is heard responding, “Gabe.”

He did however make some striking admissions during his deposition.  David Brill got on his knees, hands behind his head, simulating the position Eimers was first ordered to take, as shown in the video.  “Would you ask me to get on my stomach on the sand?” asked the attorney. “Personally, no,” said Lovette, “I would walk behind you and handcuff your hands behind your back.”

As to whether pain inflicted upon Eimers during handcuffing could have triggered a violent reaction, both Lovette and Delvalle seemed to agree.  “Bringing the arm from underneath – could it be painful?” asked Brill.  “Absolutely, ” said Lovette.  “If someone had been pulling your arm backward without bending at the elbow would you be yelling and maybe very upset?” asked McKee.  “Of course, I imagine I would be,” said Delvalle.

Garrido, who had placed the handcuffs on Eimers, couldn’t explain why a regulation-tight handcuff would not allow his finger to come free, “Gabe was screaming like a girl,” Lovette had said on the Taser video.  His finger was stuck for maybe 3-5 seconds according to Officer Delvalle.  [Regulation-tight handcuffs require clearance equal to about a pinky width between the wrist and the bracelet.]  Hospital records show Eimers’ wrists were deeply lacerated.

During his deposition, Lovette admitted to having his right shin across Eimers left shoulder onto his back and his left leg next to his head.  [He’d testified to FDLE agents that he’d had two knees on Eimers’ back] While reviewing the video taken by the tourist where one officer [not yet identified] is seen with both knees on Eimers back, Lovette admitted, “having two knees, that seems like it would be a little excessive.”

When asked whether anyone was checking on Eimers’ vital signs, Lovette admitted that he had not done so and had not seen any other officers doing so either.  “Can you really dispute that Eimers was resisting for the purpose of being able to breathe?” asked Brill. “Is it a possibility? Absolutely,” said Lovette.

In the end, the City’s defense appears to be that the officers did everything by the book and they would do it exactly the same way next time [in spite of the Grand Jury’s consensus regarding certain officers lack of empathy and the need to provide “immediate sensitivity training.”]

For Eimers family attorneys, their client was simply reacting to unnecessary pain wrongly inflicted by the officers, was fighting to breathe and, through no fault of his own, died as a result of the officers’ rough treatment and complete lack of empathy.

“It could have all been avoided by simply asking for Eimers’ cooperation.  It all began with Garrido’s rough handcuffing method,” says McKee.  What appears to have followed was panic, reaction, and ultimately suffocation and/or cardiac arrest.

Could it be that Garrido was just angry and full of adrenalin?” asked McKee of Officer Thaddeus Calvert.  “Is it possible?  Yes it’s possible.”


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

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  14 Responses to “CHARLES EIMERS UPDATE: Police, Death, and Missing Videotapes”

  1. Is any one surprised? Never in history has there been so many lost or erased video and audio. Lovette is obviously playing CYA and seems to be trying to pass the buck to Garrido. A good many KWPD should be losing their jobs if not facing criminal charges. If Donnie Lee has any honor he should fire these officers, then resign himself. If not, then the city commissioners should have him fired. But that will never happen because the people of Key West DO NOT care how their PD treats suspected homeless.

  2. Elysium West’s mayor and city commissioners, and their head where the sun don’t never shine constituents who voted the mayor a 4th consecutive term this past August, and the state attorney beauty contest loser and her top pop gun prosecutors and the turn blind eyes grand jury must be thrilled.

  3. these depos are so very disgusting there are not words in the English language to describe the distain I feel towards the whole of the key west thug department from the corrupt chief down to the lowest officer involved in this fiasco of criminal bullshit.
    a complete loss of faith in the kwpd is the result of this criminal behavior. this now translates to an us vs them contrast that the gang of cops and that’s just what they are a “GANG” in the worse meaning possible ‘murdered’ a ‘VICTIM’ of a simple traffic stop.
    I said in a much earlier comment to this story around the time of the bundy ranch standoff and in somewhat a tongue and cheek way ‘perhaps we need a milita here to protect us from traffic stops gone wild’ now I can believe it. this police department is watching way too many big city cop shows on tv and then acting out. i’ll bet some of them stand in front of mirrors and practice imaginary bone breaking being a tough cop and putting on a face. I also said in the past lovette needs be put in a cage….and now more then ever!
    a damn disgrace no matter how you look at it and a stinking shame it took the suffocation of an innocent family man to prove the case. may the guilty rot on hell.

  4. Someone called me this morning to say word had it that someone wants to hold a candle ceremony Thanksgiving night at South Beach, where Charles Eimers was killed last Thanksgiving Day by Key West police officers, after being profiled by the police as living in his vehicle (homeless) – I remain convinced Eimers died because he was profiled as being homeless.
    I said a candle ceremony would be a calm but powerful statement. Then I said, the number of people who participated would indicate how disturbed the people of Key West really are about what their police did to Charles Eimers.

    • A candlelight gathering at South Beach would be a dramatic statement of support for Charles Eimers’ family and a message to the KWPD that no one has forgotten what happened on that beach. Excellent idea!

  5. More dash cams, voice recorders and body cameras are the answer???

  6. Chilling! I want to throw up. Protect and Serve?

  7. What good are dash cams, voice recorders and body cameras if the information they record is lost or erased? KWPD will always cover their own asses so taxpayer money to buy these devices is money flushed down the toilet. When will our Commissioners grow a pair and Donnie Lee packing and get rid of these rogue cops because none of them are fit to be on our payroll.

  8. It appears to me that the initial crime of murder was expeditiously followed up by destruction of evidence, perjury, obfuscation, fraudulent police reports; along with witness tampering and intimidation; as FDLE decided to violate its own ethical standards, before it even began to investigate the death in question.

    Based upon the evidence, it’s apparent that the aforementioned crimes could have been proven beyond any and all reasonable doubt. In the right hands, it is expected that this evidence can still convict anyone who might have participated in a homicide.

    Why were the details involved in this man’s killing clearly ignored, discarded, altered and destroyed? Why was this case corrupted and negligently examined?

    It is perceivable that upon the killing of Mr. Eimers, a story line rapidly developed as a cover-up. It looks like the emerging stratagem was played by the book.

    KWPD’s party line and narrative were never authentically challenged. In the minds of many, it was never examined and probed in accordance with the standards, principles and jurisprudence proffered by the Constitution of the United States.

    It’s the belief of many, that upon examining the transcript of the ‘grand jury contrivance’ it will become clear that the State Attorney’s Office reneged on its ‘due diligence’ requirement, as it relates to the ‘due process clause’ within our Constitution.

    It appears that there were many levels of ‘prosecutorial misconduct’.

    No one is above the law. People in the know are predicting that the findings of the SA are going to unravel. With a clean conscience, renewed spirit and fresh eyes; these attorneys will be revving up for a clean and legal take down…

    • john I much respect your writings and backround but I think your legal friends are blowing smoke if the fed’s ag is the reliance on justice. looking how the national rule of law is so out of control….or should I say in control of fascists.
      my wish is for blind justice based on facts and evidence but I do not see it happening in this lifetime on mr eimers forced suffocation.

  9. It is my hope that Mayor Craig Cates and the six city commissioners and the city manager and the city attorney all have read this article by now. It is my further hope that they now will move aggressively to right this situation by cleaning house in their police department. I wish they had done that already.

    Perhaps it might help them do it now, if they watch “Kill The Messenger” now showing at Tropic Cinema. It’s about a southern California journalist, who literally stumbled into the CIA buying huge amounts of crack cocaine from Central American drug lords, to help them finance the Contras, who allegedly were trying to bring about a democratic government in Nicaragua. The side effect was all of that crack cocaine ended up being sold and consumed in America. A great deal of it ended up in southern California black communities, whose cries of outrage and for justice, after the story finally broke, probably saved the entire affair from being swept under the rug. What happened to the investigative journalist, who broke the story, was predictable.

    I still say Arnaud and Naja should receive a Pulitzer for their brave and good efforts. And I still say Mayor Cates and the city commissioners should give Naja and Arnaud a Citizens of the Year award. But more than that, I hope Mayor Cates and the city commissioners will clean house in their police department. And I hope they do it now.

  10. Will someone hold a candle for me please?

  11. much appreciation for the editors of The Blue Paper for keeping this heinous story active.

    it should be apparent to everyone by now, that the police state is here, and here to stay. there will be no justice for Mr. Eimers, his family, or anyone else. Complicity between the police and the judicial system will ensure very few receive a fair resolution.

    it should also be apparent to everyone by now that the police have been turned into a domestic army. it is no coincidence that the brutalization of the citizenry is a nation wide phenomena, and no coincidence that they all dress themselves up as storm troopers, and carry weaponry to match.

    the pseudo liberal columnists at this paper would have you believe it is about some “bad” cops, or a race issue. this of course is naiveté of the highest order.

    police are the domestic defenders of the .0001 percent. they are here to ensure you stay in your place. they are here to ensure the rich stay in their place. they will kill you. they will get away with it. that’s what the system demands, and that’s what the system will get.

  12. What a f**k up island we live on. We have a Commissioner willing to fight someone over someone taking his wife’s seat at a bar but he’s completely unwilling to stand up to a shit for brains corrupt Chief of Police.

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