A Key West Police Department internal review into last year's in-custody death of Charles Eimers has resulted in discipline for two officers involved, Gary Lee Lovette and Henry del Valle, according to a report released Monday by police.
Lovette, according to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement summary released this past August, said on a Taser recording "I dropped like a f-ing bomb on his [Eimers'] head." He is expected to receive a five-day suspension without pay for actions including inappropriate remarks he made to employees of a Key West cupcake store that "gave the impression he had done something purposely wrong to cause Mr. Eimers' death."
He's also being punished for comments on a Taser recording that included words to co-workers and family members "that were lies and exaggerations concerning his actions during the Eimers incident."
del Valle has received a letter of reprimand for engaging in "an unauthorized vehicle pursuit" of Eimers, including by not continuously operating his emergency lights and sirens during the pursuit.
Both officers can challenge their punishments. Police Chief Donie Lee said the disciplines and a majority of recommendations in the report have to do with policy issues.
"These policy violations had absolutely nothing to do with Mr. Eimers' death," Lee said."
Eimers, 61, of Birch Run, Mich., was pulled over by police in a North Roosevelt Boulevard traffic stop on Thanksgiving 2013. According to reports, Eimers explained his driving as "working for the God Almighty."
The retired automotive worker then sped off on about a nine-minute chase through Old Town before ending up on South Beach with his PT Cruiser. He got out of his car and lay down in the sand. While there, Eimers "began resisting by pulling and thrashing," Sgt. Joe Tripp wrote in the report. Moments later, Lovette grabbed, but did not use, his Taser.
Eimers eventually fell unconscious, as officers removed his handcuffs and performed CPR until paramedics transported him to Lower Keys Medical Center, where he died Dec. 4, 2013.
The report released Monday highlights many potential policy changes. Tripp wrote that although deadly force was not used, making the scene secure, providing medical attention, making proper notifications, preserving and remaining at the scene, briefing a supervisor, writing a report and investigating "are responsibilities of the officers."
Moreover, there was no crime-scene log or effective scene management, as the lag in time after the Eimers incident may have led to a loss in potential witnesses.
"There should be part of our policy that addresses handling cases where there is an in-custody death or suspects in critical condition," according to the report.
Additionally, the review touches on addressing what constitutes an active pursuit, as well as potentially modifying the emergency vehicle operations policy. The internal review also addresses a witness video, recently released by Eimers' family attorneys, of the beach scene.
"We reviewed it and found that it more clearly depicted how the officers did not appear to use unreasonable force and how they provided emergency medical care, including CPR, to Mr. Eimers," the report states.
A grand jury investigated but didn't charge any police officers. The Eimers family suing the city and 12 officers in federal court for wrongful death.
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