The family of a California man who died in police custody filed a claim against the city of Alameda accusing officers of using excessive force when they pinned Mario Gonzalez to the ground for five minutes.
The claim says that police detained Gonzalez “without reasonable suspicion or other legal cause” on April 19. Gonzalez, 26, later died at a nearby hospital.
“Respondents placed Mario Gonzalez in unjustified pain compliance holds and arrested Mario Gonzalez without probable cause or warrant, forcing him to the ground when he posed no immediate threat to anyone,” the claim reads. “Thereafter, respondents subjected Mario Gonzalez to prone restraint with significant weight on his back, shoulders, neck, legs for over five minutes in violation of generally accepted law enforcement standards, while Mr. Gonzalez struggled to breathe.”
The claim — a required precursor to filing a lawsuit — names officers Eric McKinley, James Fisher and Cameron Leahy as well as Alameda police assistant Charles Clemmens. The police department and union did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Police were called to the 800 block of Oak Street after getting two calls about a “male who appeared to be under the influence and a suspect in a possible theft,” police said in an April 19 statement.
In an audio recording released by police in April, a man said that the male seemed to be “tweaking” but told the dispatcher that he was “not doing anything wrong.”
“He’s just scaring my wife,” the man said.
Police body-camera video showed Gonzalez struggling to answer questions before officers attempted to detain him.
The Alameda Police Department said there was a “physical altercation” involving Gonzalez and the officers. Gonzalez then “had a medical emergency,” police said.
The officers involved did not use any weapons during the incident, according to the department’s statement. Three officers have been placed on paid administrative leave, a standard procedure.
The claim disputes the police account and says that Gonzalez was “confused” and “possibly intoxicated” but was not a threat to himself or anyone else.
It also says that Gonzalez “never attacked or threatened any officer, and never actively resisted any officer.” It notes that while he was restrained, he “did move around in attempts to breathe” under the weight of the officers.
“When respondents finally got off of Mario Gonzalez’s back and rolled him over, it was too late,” the claim says. “He would soon die from respondents’ use of excessive force, improper restraint, mechanical asphyxia, and positional restraint, and compression asphyxia of him.”
Gonzalez died one day before Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, was convicted of murdering George Floyd by pinning him to the pavement with his knee for more than 9 minutes.
Julia Sherwin, an attorney representing Gonzalez’s family, said her client’s death was similar to that of Floyd’s.
“These Alameda police officers killed Mario literally while the jury was debating Derek Chauvin’s murder charges,” she previously told NBC News.
The Gonzalez family is seeking an unspecified amount of damages. An attorney for the City of Alameda did not respond to a request for comment.
Source : NBC News