A 30-year-old Northern California man who was in the midst of a mental health episode died after police restrained him by kneeling on his neck for five minutes, his family’s attorney has said.
Angelo Quinto died at the end of last year following an altercation with police on 23 December. Officers were called by his sister in the hopes they would provide assistance to de-escalate a domestic situation.
According to ABC7, Quinto’s sister, Bella Collins said she called 911 because her brother, who had been experiencing mental health problems, was suffering from an episode and needed help.
In the press conference last week, the family’s lawyer claimed that when police arrived they pulled Quinto, who was beginning to calm down, from his mother and threw him to the floor to restrain him.
According to Mr Burris, a well-known Bay Area civil rights attorney, police made “no effort to de-escalate the situation” and Quinto said “please don’t kill me” when officers threw him to the floor.
“They immediately grabbed him from his mother’s arms and immediately threw him down to the ground,” the lawyer claimed, adding that they put “their knee on the back of his neck” for five minutes while another officer restrained his legs.
Quinto lost consciousness and was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead three days later.
The Independent has reached out to Antioch Police Department for comment. A cause of death has not been released by authorities and an independent autopsy is pending, Mr Burris said.
“We had a healthy young man in his mother’s arms,” the lawyer said. “The police grabbed him. They themselves, the conduct they engaged in, snuffed his life out of him.”
He added: “That to me is not only as a violation of his civil rights but it’s a violation of humanity, frankly.”
According to The Times-Herald and The Mercury News, a police spokesperson previously said Quinto suffered a “medical emergency” while police were detaining him and said that while officers handcuffed Quinto, they didn’t use more serious force.
The local reports said that the department waited more than a month to acknowledge the death publicly.
Antioch Police Lt Tarra Mendes told The East Bay Times that “the investigation is still ongoing. We want it to be completed. As soon as it is completed, we will be able to provide the public with more information.”
A mobile phone video, shot by Quinto’s mother and shown at the press conference, shows Quinto unresponsive on the floor with a bloody face and later shows paramedics administer chest compressions to the 30-year-old.
The video did not make it clear whether the police were wearing body cameras, and Mr Burris said "as far as we know, they were not” in the conference.
"This is wrongful death in the sense that their conduct caused the death of this person," said the lawyer. "This was a healthy person before, and now his life is gone."
Ms Collins, Quinto’s sister, said that she “trusted” the police “too much” to help de-escalate the situation and told ABC7 that she didn’t know if she “will not feel bad” about calling for police help.
“If it was the right thing to do they would not have killed my brother,” she said.
Supporters and the family called for more sympathetic handling of situations including mental distress, and for a ban on the use of such chokeholds.
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