ALAMEDA (CBS SF) — A coroner’s report has concluded that the April death of Mario Gonzalez following an encounter with Alameda police officers resulted from a combination of drugs along with the physical stress of the altercation with officers who pinned him on the ground using their body weight.
Because there was a physical altercation, the Alameda County Coroner’s report classified Gonzalez’s manner of death as a homicide.READ MORE: Health Experts, Parents, Teachers Call for Lifting Mask Mandates Post-Omicron
Alameda police said they contacted Gonzalez as a suspect in a possible theft on April 19 in the 800 block of Oak Street and e appeared to be under the influence. At the time, police said when officers attempted to detain him, they struggled to get him to put his arms behind his back and he suffered a medical emergency.
On police bodycam video released days later, 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. Gonzalez then became unresponsive and was later pronounced dead.
“During the interaction with law enforcement agents, he was face-down on the ground (prone) with his hands handcuffed behind his back, and at times the officers were applying pressure to his torso and legs with at least some of the weight of their bodies,” the coroner’s report said. “The stress of the altercation and restraint combined with prone positioning in the setting of morbid obesity and recent use of methamphetamine placed further strain on Mr. Gonzalez Arenales’ heart.”
The coroner’s report concluded, “the cause of death is the toxic effects of methamphetamine, with the physiologic stress of altercation and restraint, morbid obesity, and alcoholism contributing to the process of dying.”
According to the autopsy report, Gonzalez had an “enlarged and dilated heart” and an “enlarged liver … that had severe fatty change.” Toxicology tests detected methamphetamine, amphetamine and ethanol in Rodriguez’ body.
The coroner’s report concluded: “The cause of death is the toxic effects of methamphetamine with the physiologic stress of altercation and restraint, morbid obesity and alcoholism contributing to the process of dying.”UPDATE: Crews Make Progress in Big Sur Firefight; Containment at 35 Percent
“Anytime someone loses their life, it is a tragedy. I want to again extend my sincere condolences to Mr. Gonzalez’s family. I know they are already suffering the severe trauma of losing a loved one. The new information being released adds to that pain,” said Alameda Police Chief Nishant Joshi in a prepared statement. “As Chief of Police, it’s my duty to complete a thorough investigation and take the actions necessary to ensure the safety of all members of our community.”
The officers involved, James Fisher, Cameron Leahy and Eric McKinley along with and parking enforcement employee Charlie Clemmens, are currently on administrative leave and their peace officer rights suspended until the investigation is completed, Joshi said.
Gonzalez’s death prompted a renewed uproar against police brutality with the incident evoking the May 2020 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Police officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd’s back and neck for more than nine minutes, was convicted of murder and sentenced to 22 years in prison. Three other officers face trial in the case early next year.
“The police killed my brother in the same manner that they killed George Floyd,” said his brother Jerry Gonzalez in April. “There was no reason to detain him, let alone kill him. The APD took a calm situation and made it fatal.”
Gonzalez was the father of a 4-year-old and caretaker for a brother with special needs.
A spokeswoman for the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to say whether prosecutors would file charges against the employees.
City officials said in April that former San Francisco City Attorney Louise Renne had 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.
Two other investigations were being conducted, one by the DA’s office and another by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department.MORE NEWS: Big Sur Residents Told to Boil Water Due to Possible Wildfire Damage to Utility
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