OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The household of an Oakland man who died after police held him down filed a wrongful loss of life lawsuit Friday, contending officers asphyxiated him throughout a confrontation that drew protests and comparisons to the loss of life of George Floyd.
The lawsuit cites a report launched final week by the Alameda County Coroner’s Bureau that mentioned the April 19 loss of life of Mario Gonzalez was a murder. The report mentioned Gonzalez died from the “toxic effects of methamphetamine” but that the “physiologic stress” from his struggling and being restrained by police contributed to his death, along with alcoholism and obesity.
Officers had responded to a park to check reports that Gonzalez, 26, was acting strangely and appeared to be breaking security tags off alcohol bottles that he had in two drugstore baskets.
His brother, Jerry Gonzalez, told The Associated Press in April that Gonzalez liked to get away from their neighborhood in east Oakland — where gang shootings, robberies and murders are common — and go to nearby Alameda, a city on an island with beautiful homes, tree-lined streets and many parks.
Gonzalez died after three officers and a civilian parking enforcement employee pinned him face-down on the ground for more than five minutes, according to body camera video released by police that showed one officer with a knee on his back. Gonzalez stopped breathing and later died.
His death came a day before a jury in Minneapolis found former police officer Derrick Chauvin guilty of murder in Floyd’s custody death.
In a statement released after the coroner’s report was issued, Alameda Police Chief Nishant Joshi said the officers involved remain on administrative leave and their peace officer powers have been suspended.
Joshi said he was committed to “full transparency and accountability into the tragic death of Mr. Gonzalez.”
The lawsuit was filed in federal court docket on behalf of Gonzalez’s 5-year-old son, Mario Jr., and names the town of Alameda, the previous interim police chief and the three officers. It alleges wrongful use of lethal power, negligence and civil rights violations.
The go well with alleges police improperly escalated the confrontation with Gonzalez, who appeared “disoriented and confused” however not threatening, ignored indicators that he was dying and used improper restraint that asphyxiated him.
Gonzalez “squirmed around in a desperate attempt to breathe, but never attacked, threatened, or violently resisted any officer,” the go well with mentioned.
“Mario was a peaceful, calm person,” Mario Jr.’s mom, Andrea Cortez, mentioned in an announcement launched by the attorneys who filed the go well with.
“He adored our son and was a good father,” she said, adding officers should have known to use better tactics.
“He wasn’t hurting anyone, and he was clearly confused,” Cortez said. “If they had rolled him on his side when the first officer said to, my son’s father might still be here.”
The Alameda County district legal professional’s workplace, which is investigating Gonzalez’s loss of life, didn’t instantly return an electronic mail searching for remark.
Alison Berry Wilkinson, the legal professional for the officers, mentioned that they “sit up for the chance to show in federal court docket that their actions throughout this encounter have been affordable, obligatory, and lawful.”
“This was an unintended, surprising and tragic loss of life” and the officers used “solely educated and accepted legislation enforcement methods,” she mentioned in an electronic mail.
“As the coroner famous, the trigger of loss of life was drug toxicity, and plenty of of the accidents listed within the criticism have been the consequence of the officers’ aggressive efforts to avoid wasting Mr. Gonzalez’s life moderately than their efforts to handcuff him,” Wilkinson mentioned.
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