Police have killed at least 229 black people out of a total of 426 people of color since former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd on May 25, 2020. Each case is different, but many share fundamental similarities. : quick encounters, for low-level people. violations were met with lethal force, leaving families and communities with unanswered questions.
There are police video footage from the last moments of Mario González’s life, and it is deeply distressing to watch.
For more than five minutes, the officers immobilized the unarmed man face down on the ground and handcuffed him. You can hear him growl, while his face is pressed to the ground as several officers hold him steady.
“I think you drank too much today,” says an officer. Another says, “Mario stop kicking.”
As the seconds continue, an officer can be heard saying in apparent warning to his colleagues: “We have no weight on his chest, nothing.”
A second seems to warn: “Weightless, weightless.”
Moments later, the 26-year-old stops moving and officers frantically realize that the incident is turning into a tragedy.
“Does he have a pulse,” one asks, before an officer performs CPR on him to try to save the young man’s life. Not successful.
Mario Arenales González lost his life a day before a jury at the trial of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin found him guilty of the murder of George Floyd. Like Floyd, González was unarmed and did not appear to pose a threat to officers in Alameda, California.
An autopsy has not yet been released. Lawyers for the family believe the young man, who had a four-year-old son also named Mario, died of suffocation as a result of being immobilized. “The video showed that he died on the ground with his face on the ground and the officers on top of him,” his older brother, Jerry Gonzalez, told the Associated Press.
Attorney Julia Sherwin said: “For him it would feel like he was drowning on dry land.”
Activists say that in the whirlwind of news headlines and the 24/7 nature of modern life, victims of police violence or neglect risk becoming little more than a statistic, their lives condensed into a few sentences like maximum, before everyone moves on to the next one. tragedy. It is one of the reasons for chants like “Say your name” at protests and vigils.
In the days since González’s death on April 19, his family and friends have tried to fill in the details of a truncated life, after police said they were called to respond to someone who appeared drunk in a park in the city. town. (His attorneys say toxicology results are still pending, and yet officers are only authorized to intervene if someone is incapacitated, which Mario was not.)
His family said he spent most of his time caring for his younger brother, Efraín, 22, who has autism. González had worked at a pizzeria, but lost his job when the pandemic struck. He then became Efrain’s de facto full-time caregiver.
“I have always thought that people who care for people with disabilities have a gift. My son had that gift, ”his mother Edith Arenales told the network.
On April 16, González’s older brother had traveled home from college in North Carolina to attend his mother’s birthday party. Such events had always been important to the family, and Mario’s mother loved having her children together.
In fact, the 26-year-old was murdered the day before his mother’s birthday and four days before Efrain’s 23rd birthday.
Attorneys for the family have described González, who graduated from Coliseum College Prep Academy in Oakland in 2013, as a devoted son, father and brother. On his last mother’s day, when he lost his job, Mario could not buy a gift for his mother, but instead played songs on his guitar for her.
Mrs. Sherwin said The News Logics He has been in criminal practice for 26 years and has become a kind of specialist in so-called postural asphyxia in police custody, which is when someone cannot breathe properly due to the position in which the agents have placed their body. As it happens, last year she served as a consultant to the Minnesota prosecutors who tried and convicted Derek Chauvin.
She said that, as in the George Floyd case, originally described as a response to a medical emergency, the police involved in Mr. González’s death also issued a press release that was misleading.
“I mean, they could cut and paste these press releases, which have nothing to do with reality,” he said.
“I think one of the big problems in the United States is inappropriate [police] training, we do not have a national, federal, or federally supervised training program in the United States for police officers. So it’s left to individual jurisdictions, each state has policing standards. “
Sherwin says it has been known for decades that the use of immobilization in the prone position, with the weight on a person’s back, often leads to the death of suspects. Given the amount of discussion about how George Floyd was assassinated, police across the country should be on the alert for these issues.
She says that in 2018, Alameda police killed an Iraqi war veteran, Shelby Gattenby, after giving him five electric shocks, turning him face down, and then adding their body weight to keep him still. He stopped breathing and died nine days later in hospital. In 2020, the city of Alameda paid $ 250,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by Gattenby’s mother, who said police violated her 40-year-old son’s civil rights.
“So certainly by the time of George Floyd’s death, police departments across the country should have banned not just neck restraints or chokes (many departments and even the state of California have now banned chokes) , but also the restriction in the prone position because that affects the ability to breathe, and it is very likely that they will die from asphyxia, “he says.
The attorneys have demanded a federal investigation into González’s death and also claim that he was denied his civil rights. There was no reason for the police to arrest him, Ms. Sherwin said, and there was no need for him to be killed.
An initial press release from the police department stated that officers attempted to arrest Mr. González and that a “physical altercation” occurred, before the young man had a “medical emergency.” The video does not appear to show any actual alteration.
A city spokesman said in a statement that it was “committed to full transparency and accountability following González’s death.”
The spokesperson added: “Three investigations have been launched into his death: criminal investigations by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department and the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, and an News Logics external investigation of Louise Renne of Renne Public Law. Group, who was hired by the City Manager. “
He said four involved police department employees had been interviewed by both the District Attorney’s Office and the Sheriff’s Department. Those employees were Police Officer James Fisher, hired in 2010, and Officers Cameron Leahy and Eric McKinley, hired in 2018. All three police officers remain on paid administrative leave. Charlie Clemmens, a civilian parking control clerk, was also involved and is also on leave.
González’s older brother told the Associated Press that he had not suffered a “medical emergency” per se.
“The medical emergency they are talking about was induced by three officers on his back.”
The young man’s mother, who had put off going to college to work and support her family, said she had a hard time watching the video showing his death.
“We cannot accept this because we are brown or black or Hispanic like me. We are citizens, we pay taxes, we live here, ”he said. He said CNN. “It has happened to a lot of people, and since they don’t have [legal immigration status], because they do not speak English … they are afraid and remain silent “.
She added: “I saw his last moments of his life. I saw when he asked for help … to let him breathe. “