by Naja and Arnaud Girard…….
Charles Eimers was finally going to realize his dream: leave Michigan and spend a winter in Key West. It was Thanksgiving morning and at 61 years of age Eimers had made it to the Southernmost City. But before his first day in the ‘tropics’ was over he would mysteriously die in the hands of police, on South Beach, at the foot of Duval Street.
Eimers had been a GM man, living in Michigan all his life. Now, with four children all grown up and rearing kids of their own, with his GM pension and full health insurance in place, he was going to get a taste of the ‘tropics’.
“He planned to keep occupied by volunteering,” said his son, Treavor Eimers, “He didn’t need to work; he had enough to live on with his pension. He liked to live below his means.”
Treavor, who is a nurse anesthetist living in Northern Michigan, said he watched the video of his father’s arrest published by The Blue Paper last week [Issue #40] and was shocked by the discrepancies between what was shown in that video and the version of the incident he’d been given by Key West police.
“Detective Todd Stevens told me my dad was aggressive from the moment he got out of the car,” said Treavor on the phone, “He said that he wouldn’t put his hands behind his back and that he fought the police even after he had been handcuffed and then collapsed all of a sudden and couldn’t be revived.”
Actually, that closely resembles the description of events we were given when we first asked the City for information the day after the incident:
“An older man was stopped for driving erratically. While the officer was out with him, he drove off. Police followed … Not in pursuit. The msn pulled up at south beach and officers approached him. He was again erratic and resisted officers approach, then apparently collapsed unconscious and was transported to the hospital…”
– November 29 email from City spokesperson Alyson Crean
But that official version has become increasingly questionable. It began with the fact that contrary to initial police reports, a video provided by a bystander shows Charles Eimers complying with police in every way. Then there were the numerous eyewitnesses who told us that Eimers was tased until dead. And now there is this ever more troubling revelation: contrary to the official theory that Eimers’ death was caused by a pre-existing heart condition, Eimers’ family was informed by the Monroe County Medical Examiner, Dr. E. Scheuerman, that Eimers did not die of a heart attack.
Then what killed him? What can kill a man who appears in good health, walking on the beach while smoking a cigarette and what could do the trick in what witnesses say was less than 6 minutes?
We know he was face down on the beach, as many as six police officers were immediately surrounding him, and at least one of them had his knee on Eimers’ back. The handcuffs were so tight that an officer who accidentally got his fingers stuck in the cuff was crying out in pain.
“His wrists were chewed up, totally lacerated, covered with bandages even a week later at the hospital,” says Treavor.
According to police statements, no Tasers were used. Eimers stopped breathing, turned blue, and went limp. A defibrillator was brought in but the machine’s diagnostics said “no shock advised”. Eimers was never brought back to consciousness and was pronounced dead six days later when he was disconnected from a mechanical ventilator. Up to that point he had a “life sustaining heart rhythm” according to what medical professionals who treated him at Lower Keys Medical Center told Treavor Eimers.
Multiple eyewitnesses told The Blue Paper that when officers tried to lift Eimers to his feet they were shocked to see his face all caked up with sand. Could Eimers have died of asphyxiation?
One physician we spoke to [not involved in Eimers’ care] who has emergency room experience told us that Eimers’ symptoms [blue in the face, limp, non-shockable heart rhythm] are consistent with asphyxiation.
“He had sand all the way up his nostrils and in his mouth,” says one eyewitness who also gave a statement to FDLE [Update: turns out the witness was led to beleive he was speaking with state officials, but in fact was being questioned [and intimidated] by KWPD’s Todd Stevens and another as yet to be identified officer – see full article here.] but asked us not to reveal his identity.
When looking at an asphyxiation scenario the use of a Taser or even a run-of-the-mill stun gun takes on dramatic significance. According to Taser International, the company that makes Taser/stun gun devices, electro-shock by such devices creates powerful muscle contractions. The effect on the body is similar to an intense workout (pain aside) and requires rapid and deep breathing. Arguably, in such cases the lapse of time needed for fatal asphyxiation to occur may be extraordinarily shorter than normal.
The police department is emphatic that “no Tasers were used.” But this may be a play on words. Witnesses claiming to have seen a Taser used against Eimers were reportedly asked by an FDLE investigator whether they could tell the difference between a stun gun and a Taser. [They couldn’t.] Could some officers be “packing a personal piece”? Some sort of over-the-counter stun gun – which, unlike police Tasers, do not have an internal log that records their usage?
Here was a 61-year-old man, out of breath, with hand-cuffs cutting into his skin, sand entering his nose and mouth, being kneed in the back – maybe even shocked with a stun gun. Could the officers have confused his signals of distress for lack of air with resisting arrest – until it was too late?
Reportedly Eimers’ family was told by the medical examiner that Eimers suffered severe brain damage resulting from Anoxic Encephalopathy (AE), which means that Eimers’ brain was deprived of oxygen. In layman’s terms, Eimers went “brain dead” from lack of air. Exactly how that happened is likely to be explained by the medical examiner’s official report.
Or will it? There’s been an unexpected complication with Eimers’ autopsy: the body was “lost” for a week. Apparently, the body left the hospital but the medical examiner was not immediately notified. The medical examiner blames the hospital for not sending him the body and the hospital blames the police for not notifying them of the need to contact the medical examiner. The body was mistakenly sent to Dean Lopez Funeral Home.
“They’re playing the blame game,” says Treavor, “The medical examiner said some of his judgments may be limited because we’re talking a week after his death. This may limit some of the conclusions he could reach.” The autopsy occurred on December 12th, two weeks after the arrest on the beach. If a stun gun were used, would marks still be visible fourteen days later?
“As soon as I heard my dad was at the hospital,” says Treavor, “I headed to Key West. I was on the road within 24 hours. My dad had recently been diagnosed with mild congestive heart failure. It’s fairly common, but he was taking his medication and was walking a couple of miles a day. I watched the video showing his arrest, I cannot understand how this arrest could have ended up in his death. ”
“My dad would never hurt a soul,” says Erica Garcia, Eimers’ daughter, “In fact, he would give the shirt off his back and the last dollar in his pocket. My dad didn’t deserve to die like this.”
“If there was any wrongdoing, I want people to be held accountable,” says Charles Eimers’ son Joshua Eimers, “I hope the truth will come out. I plead for anyone that knows anything more to not be afraid to come forward.”
Click here to access all Blue Paper articles on the death of Charles Eimers.