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Man Dies After Alameda, Calif., Police Pin Him To Ground For Several Minutes

A screenshot of the Alameda Police Department body camera footage shows officers detaining Mario Gonzalez, 26, on April 19. Gonzalez died soon after.
A screenshot of the Alameda Police Department body camera footage shows officers detaining Mario Gonzalez, 26, on April 19. Gonzalez died soon after.

On Tuesday, the city of Alameda, Calif., released police body camera footage of an interaction with a 26-year-old man who died after police pinned him to the ground for at least five minutes.

Mario Gonzalez of Oakland died April 19 after what police previously called a "scuffle" with officers. The Alameda Police Department said Gonzalez suffered some sort of "medical emergency" after an interaction with police.

Following criticism from Gonzalez's family, the city released the nearly hourlong video that included body camera footage from multiple officers on scene and the original 911 call. Officials edited the video to redact personal information from the caller and Gonzalez's face after he becomes unresponsive.

During the struggle with Gonzalez, officers can be seen placing arms and knees on his back to keep him restrained. In the video, Gonzalez goes still after police pin him to the ground for several minutes.

The footage has raised comparisons to the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed in Minneapolis last year after then-officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for more than 9 minutes. Chauvin was convicted of murder the day after Gonzalez died.

Gonzalez's family says he was murdered. An autopsy is pending and the cause of death has not been determined. Three investigations are ongoing, according to police.

Video details

The video begins with the 911 caller telling police dispatch that a man, later identified as Gonzalez, was standing near the caller's home in a small park with no mask and talking to himself.

Police arrive, and for several minutes they speak with Gonzalez, who is standing alone in the park with two baskets filled with bottles next to him. Officers question Gonzalez about drinking in the park and ask for his identification. He appears impaired during the conversation, and some of his answers are barely audible in the video.

Officers then ask Gonzalez multiple times to put his arms behind his back so they can handcuff him. After a struggle, the officers force him to the ground facedown. Gonzalez can be heard yelling and talking unintelligibly as officers pin him to the ground with their arms and knees on his back as they attempt to handcuff him.

One officer pleads, "Mario, please stop fighting us." Another officer can be heard telling his colleague not to put weight on Gonzalez as they keep him facedown on the ground.

After several minutes, Gonzalez goes quiet and doesn't respond to officers calling his name. Immediately, officers turn him over onto his back, check for a pulse and begin CPR.

The Alameda Police Department said officers involved in the altercation with Gonzalez are on paid administrative leave per the department's "standard procedure."

Three investigations into Gonzalez's death are ongoing: criminal investigations by the Alameda County Sheriff's Department and Alameda County District Attorney's Office and an independent outside investigation by Louise Renne, the former city attorney for San Francisco, who was hired by Alameda City Manager Eric Levitt.

A statement on the city's website about the video's release said, "The City of Alameda is committed to full transparency and accountability in the aftermath of Mr. Gonzalez's death."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.