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OC prosecutors: No criminal culpability by Anaheim officers who struggled with man who later died

SANTA ANA — Orange County prosecutors have concluded that an i-custody death in Anaheim that has led the suspect’s family to sue the city should not result in criminal charges, officials announced Monday.

The family of Christopher Eisinger filed a wrongful death complaint Nov. 29 against the city of Anaheim and Anaheim Police Chief Jorge Cisneros. Eisinger, pictured here with his mother, died in March after a struggle when police officers tried to arrest him. (Photo Courtesy of the Eisinger Family)

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office on Dec. 4 informed Anaheim Police Chief Jorge Cisneros that there was no criminal culpability on behalf of the officers who encountered 35-year-old Christopher Eisinger in a deadly struggle in March.

Police were called just after midnight March 2 to a report of an auto burglary. When police arrived Eisinger was seen attempting to open a side gate of a residence, according to a report from Senior Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Walker.

Eisinger “closely matched the description of the auto burglary suspect and was holding what appeared to be a metal pipe,” according to Walker’s report.

When the suspect was told to halt, he dropped the “metal object” and ran away, Walker said.

Police officers responding to the scene caught up to Eisinger with one officer pinning the suspect down with his knee and ordering him to “stay down,” Walker said.

Two more officers responding to the scene reported they saw Eisinger “violently” resisting arrest, Walker said.

During the struggle, Eisinger said, “Just shoot me,” Walker said. One of the officers assured him he would not be shot, she added.

After about a minute of tussling with officers, they got a handcuff on the suspect’s right wrist, but he kept fighting, Walker said.

“At one point, Eisinger grabbed Officer Warner’s Taser and Taser holster,” Walker reported.

Eisinger was again told to stop resisting and let go of the Taser, Walker said.

“Then give it to me,” Eisinger reportedly said, according to Walker.

Christopher Eisinger, seen here in a December 2017 booking mug. (Photo Courtesy of the Anaheim Police Department)

When he was again told to stop resisting, Eisinger reportedly responded, “Sorry, it’s so fun,” according to Walker.

The suspect then kicked the officers, including one who fell back, Walker said.

“Eisinger continued to resist the officers, growled, screamed, grunted and rambled continuously,” Walker said.

The suspect was seen to be “exerting unusual strength and was possibly under the influence of some type of drug,” Walker said.

After about five minutes of wrestling with officers, “Eisinger became quiet,” Walker said.

“At this point he was sweating profusely but had no visible trauma to his face or head,” Walker said. “Eisinger then became unresponsive and appeared unconscious. Eisinger had a faint pulse and appeared to be breathing with perspiration around his mouth.”

Attempts were made to revive him, and he was rushed to West Anaheim Medical Center, where he was admitted in critical condition, Walker said. He was later taken to Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, where he was pronounced dead on March 10, she added.

Eisinger was “diagnosed with right orbital edema, fractured left zygomatic arch and a sphenoid sinus fracture,” Walker said.

An autopsy performed on the suspect on March 14 did not reveal any visible skull fractures, but “significant swelling of brain,” Walker said.

Eisinger had a “small bleed at the base of the skull, right side,” and a “slightly enlarged” heart, Walker said.

The “cause of death was determined to be a sudden cardiac arrest due to occlusive coronary atherosclerosis and effects of methamphetamine,” Walker said.

“The manner of death was determined to be accidental,” she added.

Eisinger had acetone and methamphetamine in his system, Walker said.

Eisinger’s criminal history included arrests for gross vehicular manslaughter, possession of marijuana for sale, selling marijuana, spousal battery, and assault and battery on a peace officer, Walker said.

“The evidence shows Eisinger died as a result of his decision to exert himself while suffering from hypertrophy and dilation of the heart, recent and chronic substance abuse and a myriad of associated health problems,” Walker said.

Attorney Eric Dubin, who represents Eisinger’s mother in a lawsuit recently filed against Anaheim alleging wrongful death, said the District Attorney’s finding has “absolutely nothing to do with civil liability for causing our client’s death.”

Dubin noted the report focused on the criminal culpability of the officers involved, “an allegation that is extremely hard to prove in America for these types of cases.”

He added, “The issue we are investigating is did these officers cause the wrongful death of an unarmed man, and the evidence supports they did.”

Dubin said his office’s “preliminary review” of video available of the incident “confirms that the Anaheim police acted contrary to police protocol by placing the suspect on his stomach and for officers piled on top of him with their body weight to hold him down.”

Dubin added, “They remained in that position until he went limp. There is no explanation given as to why he was killed during this routine detention, and that is the issue we are seeking answers for.”

Source: Orange County Register

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