A Police officer in Alameda County pinned Mario a young boy of 26-years old facedown on the ground for five minutes before he gave up the ghost.
Gerardo Gonzalez the younger brother to the decease had traveled for his mother’s 45th birthday and also to spend time with his two brothers from North Carolina, where he attends college, to Oakland, California, Instead to meet a big celebration but was sadden with a mourning moment with his family as he loss his eldest brother on Tuesday.
“From my point of view, it’s heartbreaking to see my mother have to go through this,” Gerardo Gonzalez said Wednesday. “She raised her firstborn and now she has to bury her firstborn.”
Newly released body camera video shows police talking to Mario Gonzalez in a park after receiving 911 calls that he appeared to be disoriented or drunk. He struggled to answer questions.
“He seems like he’s tweaking, but he’s not doing anything wrong,” a man told a 911 dispatcher, according to an audio recording released Tuesday. “He’s just scaring my wife.”
The Gonzalez family and its attorney, Julia Sherwin, said his death is eerily similar to that of George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis police custody May 25.
“These Alameda police officers killed Mario literally while the jury was debating Derek Chauvin’s murder charges,” Sherwin said Wednesday.
The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the death and awaiting results of an autopsy and toxicology tests.
Mario Gonzalez died one day before Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, was convicted of murdering Floyd by holding him to the pavement with his knee for 9 minutes, 29 seconds.
Chauvin’s actions were widely rebuked by Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo and several other veteran law enforcement officials who testified that police officers are trained to roll people on their sides as quickly as possible after they have been restrained in the prone position so as to not impair breathing.
Sherwin, a civil rights attorney experienced in cases in which people die in police custody, said there is an epidemic in America of police putting people prone on the ground and applying weight on their necks or their backs until they are unresponsive. Dying under such circumstances “feels torturous,” she said. She equated it to drowning on dry land.
“What we’re focused on is accountability for these officers and reform,” she said, adding that Mario Gonzalez would still be alive had the officers been trained properly and not used excessive force.
“Horrible tactics grow out of horrible training,” she said. but the officers’ attorney, Alison Berry Wilkinson, said: “There are a number of distinguishing factors between this and George Floyd. Not the least of which was that the officers were very attentive to the issue of positional asphyxiation.”
Video shows that after about 4½ minutes of him being pinned to the ground, an officer asks if they can roll him on his side. Another officer replies, “I don’t want to lose what I got.”
Wilkinson declined to identify which officers made those remarks.
The initial police statement did not identify Mario Gonzalez by name. It said “a physical altercation ensued” when officers tried to detain him at the park in Alameda and that “the man had a medical emergency.” The report said Gonzalez later died at a hospital. The language was similar to the Minneapolis Police Department’s initial misleading and inaccurate description of what happened to Floyd, Sherwin said.
At a news conference Tuesday outside the Alameda Police Department, Gerardo Gonzalez said: “The police killed my brother in the same manner that they killed George Floyd.”
“When we were first notified, we were told one story,” he told NBC News on Wednesday. “Once we saw the actual footage, we reaffirmed that what they told us was not at all accurate.”
Mario Gonzalez’s death is under investigation by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, the county district attorney’s office and Louise Renne, a former city attorney for San Francisco and a former president of the San Francisco Police Commission who will lead an independent probe, the city said in a statement.
The three officers involved in the arrest — James Fisher, Cameron Leahy and Eric McKinley — have been placed on paid leave, the city said. Fisher has been with the Alameda Police Department since 2010. Leahy and McKinley joined in 2018.
Gerardo Gonzalez said his brother had a 4-year-old son, whom he liked to play Fortnite with, and was the main caretaker of their brother, Efraim, who has autism and turned 23 this week.
“Mario was a humorous guy,” he said. “He loved to crack jokes and have a good time.”
Their mother, Edith Arenales, had already lost another son, Frank, who died at age 20 from undisclosed causes, Gerardo Gonzalez said.
“The fact that it’s her second child, it makes the weight 10 times harder,” he said.