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California man dies after officers pin him to the ground for 5 minutes, police video shows

"The police killed my brother in the same manner that they killed George Floyd," Gerardo Gonzalez said at a news conference Tuesday outside the Alameda Police Department.
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/ Source: The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — Police in the Northern California city of Alameda released body camera video late Tuesday that shows officers pinning a man facedown to the ground for more than five minutes during an arrest last week that ended in his death.

Mario Gonzalez, 26, died April 19, one day before Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, was convicted of murdering George Floyd by holding him to the pavement with his knee for 9 minutes, 29 seconds as Floyd said repeatedly that he couldn't breathe.

A police report said "a physical altercation ensued" when officers tried to detain Gonzalez at a park in Alameda and that at that time, "the man had a medical emergency." The report said Gonzalez later died at a hospital.

His family contends he was killed by police who used excessive force.

"The police killed my brother in the same manner that they killed George Floyd," Gerardo Gonzalez said at a news conference Tuesday outside the Alameda Police Department.

He said his brother was not posing a threat when he died.

"Alameda police officers murdered my brother Mario," he said.

Julia Sherwin, the family's attorney, said: "It's strikingly similar to the Floyd case."

The nearly hourlong video from two officers' body cameras shows police talking to Gonzalez in a park after receiving 911 calls that he appeared to be disoriented or drunk. Gonzalez seems dazed and struggles to answer questions.

When Gonzalez doesn't produce any identification, the officers try to force his hands behind his back to handcuff him but he resists and they take him to the ground.

The officers repeatedly ask him for his full name and birthdate.

"We're going to take care of you, OK, we're going to take care of you," one officer says.

"I think you just had too much to drink today, OK? That's all," the same officer says. Later, he adds, "Mario, just please stop fighting us."

Gonzalez, who weighed about 250 pounds, grunts and shouts as he lies facedown on some wood chips while the officers restrain him. One officer puts an elbow on his neck and a knee on his shoulder.

"He's lifting my whole body weight up," an officer says at one point.

One officer also appears to put a knee on his back and leaves it there for about four minutes as Gonzalez gasps for air, saying "I didn't do nothing, OK?"

Gonzalez's protests appear to weaken and after about five minutes, he seems to lose consciousness.

Shortly before he stops breathing, one officer asks the other: "Think we can roll him on his side?" but the other answers, "I don't want to lose what I got, man."

Apparently seeking reassurance, the first officer asks "We got no weight on his chest?" and then repeats "No! No weight ... no weight."

"He's going unresponsive," one officer says.

The officers roll Gonzalez over and perform CPR but he was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

Gonzalez left a 4-year-old son and also was the main caretaker of his 22-year-old brother, who has autism, his family said.

An autopsy is pending to determine the cause of his death but at a news conference Tuesday, family members blamed the police, saying officers escalated what should have been a minor, peaceful encounter with the man.

"He's a lovely guy. He's respectful, all the time," Arenales, Gonzalez's mother, said. "They broke my family for no reason."

Alameda "is committed to full transparency and accountability in the aftermath of Mr. Gonzalez's death," the city said in a statement. It said the death is under investigation by the Alameda County Sheriff's Department, the county district attorney's office and a former San Francisco city attorney hired by the city to lead an independent probe.

The three officers involved in the arrest have been placed on paid leave during the investigation.

Several veteran police officers, including Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, testified during Chauvin's trial that he should have ended his restraint after Floyd stopped resisting and that officers are trained to roll people on their side after they have been restrained in the prone position so as to not impair breathing.

Arradondo said Chauvin's actions were counter to his training and to department values.