Body-cam footage shows arrest of Mario Gonzalez last week
Family says Gonzalez was killed by police who used excess force
Guardian staff and agency
Wed 28 Apr 2021 11.41 EDT
Police in Alameda on Tuesday released body-cam footage showing officers pinning a man to the ground for more than five minutes during an arrest last week that ended in the man’s death.
Mario Gonzalez, 26, stopped breathing after an 19 April encounter with police at a park in the city of Alameda, in the San Francisco Bay Area.
An initial police statement said Gonzalez had a “medical emergency” during an altercation with police after officers tried to arrest him, but his family says he was killed by police who used excessive force.
“What I saw was different from what I was told,” Gerardo Gonzalez, Mario Gonzalez’s brother, told local station KTVU after watching the body camera footage. “The medical emergency [that police described] was because they were on his back while he was lying on the ground. It was brought by the officers on top of his head.”
Officers had approached Gonzalez in the park after receiving 911 calls that he appeared to be disoriented or drunk. The nearly hour-long video from two officers’ body cameras shows the officers first talking to Gonzalez, who seems dazed and struggles to answer questions.
When Gonzalez does not produce any identification, the officers are seen trying to force his hands behind his back to handcuff him and taking him to the ground when he resists.
The officers repeatedly ask him for his full name and birthdate. “We’re going to take care of you, OK, we’re going to take care of you,” one officer can be heard saying. “I think you just had too much to drink today, OK? That’s all,” the same officer says. Later, he adds, “Mario, just please stop fighting us.”
Gonzalez, who weighed about 250lbs (113kg), is seen on the video grunting and shouting as he lies face down on wood chips while the officers restrain him. One officer puts an elbow on his neck and a knee on his shoulder.
One officer appears to put a knee on Gonzalez’ back and leaves it there for about four minutes as Gonzalez gasps for air. “I didn’t do nothing, OK,” Gonzalez can be heard saying.
Gonzalez’s protests appear to weaken and after about five minutes he seems to lose consciousness.
Shortly before he stops breathing, one officer asks the other: “Think we can roll him on his side?”
The other answers, “I don’t want to lose what I got, man.”
The first officer asks, “We got no weight on his chest?” then repeats “No! No weight … no weight.”
“He’s going unresponsive,” one officer says.
The video shows officers rolling Gonzalez over and performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation. He was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
Gonzalez had a four-year-old son and also was the main caretaker of his 22-year-old brother Efrain, who has autism, his family said.
An autopsy is pending to determine the cause of his death but family members of Gonzalez on Tuesday told reporters that police escalated what should have been a minor, peaceful encounter with the unarmed man.
“The police killed my brother in the same manner they killed George Floyd,” Gerardo Gonzalez said.
Alameda “is committed to full transparency and accountability in the aftermath of Mr Gonzalez’s death,” the city said in a statement on its website.
Gonzlez’s death is under investigation by the Alameda county sheriff’s department, the county district attorney’s office and a former San Francisco city attorney hired by the city to lead an independent probe, the statement said.
In their initial statement last week, the department had said that Gonzalez suffered a medical emergency during his arrest, but did not mention the officers putting their weight on Gonzalez’ back.
“On Monday, April 19, patrol officers responded to two separate reports of a male who appeared to be under the influence and a suspect in a possible theft,” the statement started.
“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 three officers involved in the arrest have been placed on paid leave during the investigation.
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