Christopher Eisinger, a 35-year-old homeless man left in a coma after being arrested by Anaheim police earlier this month, died from his injuries yesterday. He suffered from irreparable brain damage when family members made the difficult decision to end all life support. Eisinger’s death heightens questions surrounding what really happened just after midnight on Mar. 2 when Anaheim police were dispatched to a home following a report of a suspicious male in a backyard.
The police department maintains that Eisinger dropped a large stick or pole and ran away from a patrol sergeant who arrived first to the scene. Several officers gave chase when he tripped and fell backwards around the 3000 block of W. Ball Road. The slip gave police the chance to attempt an arrest. That’s when Eisnger allegedly began resisting arrest by kicking and flailing his arms out. Police responded with control holds and physical force until they were able to handcuff him–only he lost consciousness soon after.
Responding to social media postings last week charging that excessive force had been used in the incident, interim police chief Julian Harvey defended his officers’ actions during a press conference held Friday. “There was nothing excessive,” he said. “There was nothing that was obvious that could have resulted in these injuries suffered by Mr. Eisinger.” Harvey stated that Eisinger attempted to gain control of an officer’s Taser and pulled on another’s holster while appearing under the influence of drugs.
Harvey watched body camera footage of the encounter and a preliminary review by the department led them to conclude that no carotid holds, Tasers or forceful strikes were used. But Eisinger suffered from facial injuries and brain swelling, leaving his family with many unanswered questions. “His eye was very swollen and bulging out,” says Nicholas Eisinger, Christopher’s 32-year-old younger brother. Doctors listed off a number a facial fractures to his eye socket, nose, jaw, and cheek bone. “I’d have to see the footage but it seems like there was some kind of a fight that brought about these injuries,” Nicholas says. “Somewhere in the whole thing, his head seems to have been crushed.”
Following the encounter, paramedics revived Christopher from the cardiac arrest he suffered and transported him to West Anaheim Medical Center. Nicholas got a call from his mother later that day alerting him to what had happened. “I visited him everyday,” Nicholas says. “His condition stayed the same until he started to worsen.” Days passed before an ambulance transferred Christopher from West Anaheim Medical Center’s critical care unit to Hoag Hospital’s intensive care unit in Newport Beach. “I never lost hope,” Nicholas says. “I thought he was going to survive.” But by the time Nicholas arrived at Hoag, the damage had been done with medical staff having no options to better his condition.
Initial investigations by Anaheim police allege that Christopher attempted to break into one residence that night as well as numerous vehicles. Harvey further stated that he had been hospitalized following a scuffle with another law enforcement agency two weeks before his encounter with Anaheim police. The Orange County District Attorney’s office will be looking into whether that incident may have played any role in Christopher’s injuries during their probe. “We, frankly, do not know at this time how Mr. Eisinger obtained the injuries that he suffered,” Harvey said, “but we hope that the investigations that are concurrently ongoing will determine what those cause were.” The interim chief didn’t discount that they may have happened during the encounter with his officers.
Prior to being out on the streets, Nicholas says his brother, a father of a 12-year-old daughter, worked as a manager at Albertson’s before being a salesman in Las Vegas. Christopher’s hard lot in life began about a year-and-a-half ago when he lost his last job, suffered a break up with his girlfriend and had no apartment to stay at in Las Vegas. “He actually got sober for about nine months since he lost his job,” Nicholas says. “He went back to the streets, went back to jail and all this happened.”
Nicholas offered his older brother one of his vans to sleep in. “I’m not doing to well myself but I gave him a better place to stay than out on the streets,” he says. “He called me hours before this all happened and he just wanted to come back and rest.” At that time, Christopher didn’t mention anything about any facial injuries he suffered. Expecting his brother to return for the night, Nicholas tried calling but received no response.
Last year, Anaheim police had no in-custody or officer-involved shooting death incidents. The department’s spokesman noted Christopher had prior convictions for domestic violence, narcotics use and resisting arrest. But he had no previous run-ins with Anaheim police. Christopher’s mother retained legal representation following her son’s hospitalization. With the OCDA’s new policy in place, once the agency reaches a legal conclusion about the conduct of the Anaheim officers involved, video evidence from the body cameras will be presented to the public as soon as possible.
“I’m not blaming anyone right now,” Nicholas says. “We just want to know the truth. We just want to know how and why this happened to my brother.”