Body camera footage released by the City of Alameda shows 26-year-old Mario Arenales Gonzalez being pinned to the ground by police for five minutes. He was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
The hour-long video from the Alameda Police Department was released on Tuesday and depicts the 19 April encounter, showing Mr Gonzalez becoming unresponsive while he’s handcuffed on the ground. The footage show officers begin performing chest compressions in an effort to revive Mr Gonzalez.
A press release from the police department on 19 April said: “Patrol officers responded to two separate reports of a male who appeared to be under the influence and a suspect in a possible theft.
“Officers attempted to detain the man, and a physical altercation ensued. At that time, the man had a medical emergency.
“Officers immediately began lifesaving measures and requested the Alameda Fire Department to the scene. The Alameda Fire Department transported the male to a local area hospital, where he later died.”
The attorney representing the family of Mr Gonzalez, Julia Sherwin, said the press release contained “misinformation” and likened it to the initial police report after the murder of George Floyd, which had the headline: “Man dies after medical incident during police interaction”.
She added that Mr Gonzalez’s family raised questions as to why force was used at all.
Ms Sherwin toldThe New York Times: “His death was completely avoidable and unnecessary.”
She added: “Drunk guy in a park doesn’t equal a capital sentence.”
Mr Gonzalez’s brother, Gerardo Gonzalez, said during a press conference on Tuesday that no threat was posed by Mr Gonzalez.
He alleged that: “Alameda police officers murdered my brother.”
Three officers have been put on administrative leave. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, and the city of Alameda are all doing their own investigations into what happened.
The city also released two 911 audio recordings of phone calls reporting a Hispanic man who was later identified as Mr Gonzalez.
One man says in a call that Mr Gonzalez has been hanging around for about 30 minutes and that he seems to be taking security tags off bottles of alcohol.
Another caller says Mr Gonzalez was speaking to himself near the backyard of the man making the call.
The caller said: “He seems like he’s tweaking, but he’s not doing anything wrong. He’s just scaring my wife.”
In the video released by the city, the officer arriving on the scene first uses his radio to ask if any close-by shops have reported any thefts recently. He describes Mr Gonzalez, who has two shopping baskets from Walgreens.
The officer presents himself as Officer McKinley and asks Mr Gonzalez if he knows the area and if he’s considering hurting himself or anyone else. Mr Gonzalez has problems saying who he is.
Another officer arrives shortly after the first.
The first officer says to Mr Gonzalez: “Here’s the plan: I’ve got to identify you, so I know who I’m talking to, make sure you don’t have any warrants or anything like that. You come up with a plan, let me know you’re not going to be drinking in our parks over here. And then we can be on our merry way.”
Mr Gonzalez responds: “Merry-go-round?”
The officers start to attempt to detain him after they ask him for ID and tell him to keep his hands out of his pockets.
After a few minutes, the second officer says: “Can you please put your hand behind your back and stop resisting us?”
They ultimately push Mr Gonzalez to the ground and put him in handcuffs.
The first officer asks: “What are we going to do? Just keep him pinned down?”
Later, he says: “It’s OK, Mario. We’re going to take care of you.”
He asks for Mr Gonzalez’s birthday and last name. Mr Gonzalez tries to respond and appears to say “please don’t do it” at one point.
After almost five minutes of Mr Gonzalez being pinned to the ground, the second officer says: “We have no weight on his chest, nothing”, as they consider whether to roll Mr Gonzalez onto his side. The first officer moves to change the position of Mr Gonzalez, but the second officer says: “No, no, no. No weight, no weight, no weight.”
They soon notice that Mr Gonzalez is unresponsive, rolling him onto his side and pushing him onto his back. They check if he has a pulse, and start performing chest compressions.
Emergency medical workers arrive at the scene and the first officer explains that they gave Mr Gonzalez Narcan, a drug that can treat narcotic overdoses in emergencies.
He said: “He went from combative to non-responsive almost immediately.”
Mr Gonzalez was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
Experts in the trial of Derek Chauvin said that the prone position may hinder breathing and that officers should put those they detain onto their sides.
A spokesperson for the city said on Tuesday that the officers put on leave were Eric McKinley, Cameron Leahy, and James Fisher.
Mr Gonzalez’s family said he had a four-year-old son and was taking care of his 22-year-old autistic brother.
An autopsy will determine the cause of death but the family blamed the police, saying officers intensified what should have been a peaceful encounter with Mr Gonzalez, who was unarmed.
Gerardo Gonzalez alleged: “The police killed my brother in the same manner they killed George Floyd.”
Mr Gonzalez’s mother, Edith Arenales, said: “He’s a lovely guy. He’s respectful, all the time. They broke my family for no reason.”
The city of Alameda has said that they are “committed to full transparency and accountability in the aftermath of Mr Gonzalez’s death”.
In a statement, the city said they offer their “heartfelt condolences to the grieving family and friends of Mario Gonzalez who died on April 19, 2021, while in the custody of the Alameda Police Department”.
The city of Alameda toldThe Independent that they can’t answer questions about the case “because we are in the middle of three active investigations, but we will post updates as soon as they are available”.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies