Almost exactly one year after police in Alameda, California, killed Mario Gonzalez, the district attorney announced there will be no charges filed against the officers involved.
In a report from the Alameda County district attorney’s office sent to HuffPost on Thursday, District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said the “evidence does not justify criminal charges.”
On April 19, 2021, police in the San Francisco Bay Area city knelt on Gonzalez’s back for nearly four minutes, until he died. Body camera footage, released later that month after an outcry from his family, showed officers approach Gonzalez, who was alone in a park with bottles of alcohol nearby, after a neighbor called about someone being intoxicated. Gonzalez calmly spoke with the officers for nearly nine minutes. Then the cops put Gonzalez’s hands behind his back and pinned him facedown. At least one officer knelt on him until he stopped breathing and lost his pulse.
The D.A.’s report describes the officers as “struggling on top of” Gonzalez. Even after he was handcuffed, lying face down on the ground with officers on top of him, the report describes Gonzalez as having “continued to physically resist” because he was moving his legs.
“After approximately three minutes and 39 seconds of restraining Mr. Gonzalez while handcuffs were on, Mr. Gonzalez became unresponsive,” the report says.
Gonzalez’s family has long been calling for O’Malley to charge the three officers involved — Eric McKinley, James Fisher and Cameron Leahy — all of whom have been on paid administrative leave for the past year. The Alameda Police Department said the officers remain “suspended” and on paid leave until the city’s independent investigation is complete.
In a December report, the county coroner’s office declared Gonzalez’s death a homicide.
“These officers should be underneath the jail at this point,” the family’s attorney, Adante Pointer, told HuffPost last week, before the district attorney’s report came out. He was concerned the police officers would simply be put back on the job.
For Gonzalez’s family, this past year without him has been “like a nightmare,” his mother, Edith Arenales, said last week.
Gonzalez was 26 years old when police killed him. His son, who is 5 years old and named after his father, often asks where his dad is, when he’s coming home.
“How do I explain that he’s not coming back. That they killed him?” Gonzalez’s mother said.
Gonzalez’s 22-year-old brother, Gerardo “Jerry” Gonzalez, said last week that he hoped to see a “stricter accountability process for cops that kill people,” as well as policy changes to have alternatives to police officers responding to calls for wellness checks and mental health crises.
The family has filed two federal civil rights lawsuits — one on behalf of Gonzalez’s mother, for the loss of her son, and another on behalf of his son Mario, for the loss of his father.
Before he died, Gonzalez had been caring for his 23-year-old, autistic brother, Efrain, full time. While their mother was at work at a gas station coffee shop, Mario would bathe Efrain, make him food, put gel in his hair. He’d pick up his son from preschool and then make them both meals — they liked eggs and homemade fries.
“Mario was a beautiful person, very respectful, full of love,” his mother said, adding that he loved watching movies and cooking for his son and his brother.
“He didn’t deserve to die.”