ALAMEDA (CBS SF/AP) — The three Alameda police officers involved in the struggle to take Mario Gonzalez into custody that ended in his death last week were identified Wednesday by a city official.
An Alameda spokesperson identified the officers as James Fisher, Cameron Leahy and Eric McKinley.
The three officers involved in the arrest have been placed on paid leave. According to the release issued by Alameda Public Information Officer Sarah Henry, Fisher has been with the Alameda Police Department since 2010, while Leahy and McKinley joined the department in 2018.
The press release also noted that civilian parking enforcement employee Charlie Clemmens was also involved in the incident. All four men have been interviewed by both the District Attorney’s Office and the Sheriff’s Department, city officials said.
The Alameda Police Department has come under fire in the wake of the in-custody death that happened on April 19, a day before a jury found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.
Retired Superior Court Judge LaDoris Cordell told KPIX 5 there were multiple missed opportunities to de-escalate the situation with Gonzalez, possibly preventing his death.
“What they did was escalate the situation by using force. They closed in on him and then laid hands on him. They got one cuff on his right hand and he resisted, pulling away with his left hand,” said Cordell. “Mario Gonzalez should be alive today.”
Cordell said Gonzalez’s tragic — and in her opinion, preventable — death highlights how ill-equipped police departments are to handle situations with people who may have a history of mental illness.
“What happened to Mario Gonzalez should be a wake-up call to the city of Alameda. You can’t have officers responding to people who are not aggressive, not threatening who are going through a mental health crisis,” she said.
Fredrick Kotto, a former San Jose police sergeant who spent time in internal affairs, told KPIX 5 that police had every right to handcuff Gonzalez.
“If he doesn’t want to be handcuffed, you can’t just say well, we’re not going to handcuff you because they had a reason to. And having handcuffs is not the end of the world. It just means we’re going to protect you from hurting yourself or anybody else,” he said.
The department released video on Tuesday that showed the deadly incident.
Police said they contacted 26-year-old Gonzalez as a suspect in a possible theft on the 800 block of Oak Street and he allegedly appeared to be under the influence. According to police, when officers attempted to detain him, officers struggled to get him to put his arms behind his back and he suffered a medical emergency.
However, Gonzalez’s family said Gonzalez was healthy and had no medical conditions and are seeking criminal charges against the three officers involved. The family is also demanding an independent investigation into the actions of the officers and into their training.
“The police killed my brother in the same manner that they killed George Floyd,” said his brother Jerry Gonzalez at a press conference outside City Hall on Tuesday. “There was no reason to detain him, let alone kill him. The APD took a calm situation and made it fatal.”
The video released Tuesday shows two officers approaching Gonzalez at the end of a dead-end street. They speak with him for about 10 minutes before attempting to put his hands behind his back as they repeatedly ask and plead with Gonzalez to stop resisting. However, Gonzalez resists for several minutes before officers bring him down to the ground, where Gonzalez continued to resist officers forcing his hands behind his back.
WARNING: Graphic video, viewer discretion advised
On the video, Gonzalez is heard gasping and crying out as officers pressed their body weight on his back, neck and shoulder, including one officer pressing his knee for several minutes in Gonzalez’s back.
“He’s lifting my whole body weight up,” one officer is heard saying during the struggle.
After more than five minutes, Gonzalez stops struggling. One officer is heard asking: “Think we can roll him on his side?” but the other answers, “I don’t want to lose what I got, man.”
After the officers determine Gonzalez is unresponsive and not breathing, they begin administering life-saving measures before medics arrive to take over. They are also seen administering at least two doses of Narcan, which is given to counteract opiate overdoses. Gonzalez was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
Police also made public two calls dispatchers received about Gonzalez that prompted them to send officers to the park, which sits at the end of a cul-de-sac of well-kept homes with manicured gardens. One caller said Gonzalez was “kind of talking to himself” and “not making any sense”
The caller added: “I mean, he’s not doing anything wrong, he’s just scaring my wife.”
A second man told a dispatcher that Gonzalez had two drugstore baskets with alcohol bottles and that it appeared he was breaking the security tags off them.
“It ended horrifically. We don’t want anyone to die in contact with the police department,” said Interim Chief Randy Fenn with the Alameda Police Department. However, Fenn went on to add that the body cam footage only shows part of the story and the department is waiting on the results of the autopsy to come back.
Gonzalez’s family, however, said they watched police murder their loved one.
“The officer killed him for no reason,” said Gonzalez’s mother Edith Arenales. “He’s not a criminal at all. They don’t have the right to kill him. We’re human, not cucarachas.”
City officials said last week that former San Francisco City Attorney Louise Renne has been hired to conduct an independent investigation into Gonzalez’s death. Renne has also served as a former president of the San Francisco Police Commission and was California Deputy Attorney General for 11 years.
The city’s announced the action after Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft called for an independent investigation while attending a vigil held in remembrance of Gonzalez last week.
Two other investigations will also be conducted by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department and Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.
The city previously said in a statement it was “committed to full transparency and accountability in the aftermath of Mr. Gonzalez’s death.”
Devin Fehely contributed to this story.
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