The City of Key West has tentatively agreed to settle a civil lawsuit brought by the family of Charles Eimers, who died after police tried to arrest him on Thanksgiving morning 2013.
As part of the $900,000 settlement, the family will drop all claims against the Key West police department officers named in the wrongful death lawsuit. But the decision comes amid calls from a local Citizen’s Review Board for the FBI to investigate the circumstances surrounding Eimers’ death.
Eimers,61, lost consciousness while being placed in restraints for fleeing a routine traffic stop. He was taken off life support a week later.
The Key West police officers involved said Eimers ran from them and collapsed, but their version of events was contradicted by a videotape which surfaced showing Eimers surrendering on the beach before being surrounded by police.
“I believe my father was asphyxiated on the beach in Key West by the officers involved that day. That he was murdered by those officers,” Eimers’ son Treavor told CBS News correspondent Elaine Quijano in an interview last year.
A seven month investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement into the officers’ actions found no wrongdoing and a grand jury decided not to bring charges.
But in December, CBS News reported on a second videotape that emerged showing Eimers’ face covered in sand. The images refuted several officers’ sworn testimonies in which they said, during video depositions in the civil lawsuit, that Eimers didn’t have sand on his face. The FDLE investigation failed to uncover the videotape during the course of its own investigation.
As a result, the Key West Citizen Review Board, which is authorized to look into complaints against police, decided to conduct its own investigation into Eimers’ death and has requested assistance from the FBI.
In a letter sent to the FBI this week, the Review Board wrote, “The CRB does not have the resources to investigate the Eimers matter to the degree necessary to give the citizens of Key West the level of comfort reasonably required to assure the public that there has been a thorough, complete and fair investigation of the matter. The CRB strongly urges the Federal Bureau of Investigation to investigate whether federal law was violated by officers of the Key West Police Department on November 28, 2013 when Charles Eimers was detained, hospitalized and died.”
Key West Police insist the decision to settle the case is not an admission of liability or fault, rather that it was a business decision made by the city’s insurance provider in light of potential litigation costs.
“It’s a difficult decision for us to accept,” Key West Police Chief Donie Lee said in a statement. “We firmly contend that we did not use excessive force or cause the death of Mr. Eimers. This was a business decision by the insurance carrier.”
Charles Eimers’ son Treavor sees things differently.
“It’s not an admission of guilt,” he told CBS News, “but they wouldn’t have settled this case if they had not felt like they were somewhat involved, that there was some wrongdoing on the part of their officers.”
All ten officers involved in the incident will remain on staff with the Key West Police Department.
The settlement is subject to final approval by the City Commission on February 18.