California Man Died After Police Knelt on Him for 5 Minutes, Family Says

When Maria Quinto-Collins started filming her son at her home in Antioch, Calif., on Dec. 23, he was already on the floor, unresponsive.

In the footage, a pair of officers with the Antioch Police Department can be seen rolling the son, Angelo Quinto, from his stomach onto his side. Ms. Quinto-Collins can be heard asking, repeatedly, “What happened?”

Mr. Quinto, 30, never regained consciousness; he died three days later. Last week, his family filed a wrongful-death claim against the city. It said that the two officers, who had responded to a call from Mr. Quinto’s sister, knelt on Mr. Quinto’s back for nearly five minutes to subdue him and that he had “died as a direct consequence of the unreasonable force used against him.”

The claim, which seeks punitive damages, was filed on Feb. 18 against Antioch, which is in Contra Costa County, about 45 miles east of San Francisco. The city has 45 days to respond.

Last week, The East Bay Times reported that the police had not publicly shared information about Mr. Quinto’s death until after the newspaper asked about the case late last month. Since then, the case has gained national attention — in part because it seemed to echo the killing of George Floyd, who died in May after Derek Chauvin, a Minneapolis police officer, pressed a knee into his neck for more than eight minutes, prompting nationwide protests against racism and police brutality.

John Burris, a lawyer for Mr. Quinto’s family, said Wednesday that Mr. Quinto’s mother and sister were traumatized and grieving and that they questioned the decision to invite the police to their home. “They thought that they were calling the police for help,” Mr. Burris said.

He added that the family was awaiting the results of an autopsy from an independent medical examiner. “We feel pretty strongly that this is an asphyxiation case,” he said.

The Antioch police did not respond to a request for comment. But at a news conference on Wednesday — which had been organized to share information about another man who had died in police custody early Wednesday morning — Tammany Brooks, the Police Department’s chief, said that the investigation into Mr. Quinto’s death was continuing.

According to the wrongful-death claim, Mr. Quinto sometimes struggled with anxiety and depression, and he appeared to be experiencing paranoia on the night of Dec. 23. His sister, Isabella Collins, called the police, expressing fear to the dispatcher.

When the officers arrived, Ms. Quinto-Collins had been holding her son in her arms to calm him down, the claim said. The officers pulled him away, and Mr. Quinto asked them not to kill him, according to the claim.

Then, the claim said, he was held on the floor of his mother’s bedroom and handcuffed while the officers — first one, then the other — placed their lower legs against his neck to press him down. Smudges of blood appeared beneath Mr. Quinto’s face.

“At no time while being restrained did Mr. Quinto resist physically or verbally,” the claim said. “After being restrained for almost five minutes, Mr. Quinto became lifeless.”

It was around that time that his mother began filming. The footage shows emergency responders checking for signs of life — Ms. Quinto-Collins can be heard asking if her son has a pulse — and then administering chest compressions.

The Contra Costa County coroner, who is part of the sheriff’s office, could not be reached on Wednesday but told CNN that the cause of death had yet to be released.

The mayor of Antioch, Lamar Thorpe, said at a news conference on Monday that he had visited the Quinto family and offered his condolences. “I don’t know all of the details,” he said. “All of the details yet remain to be seen, as there is an active investigation by the D.A.’s office currently.”

A spokesman for the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office confirmed that the case was being investigated, as is protocol for every death involving law enforcement.

Mr. Thorpe, who became the mayor in December after campaigning on calls for police reform, announced a list of reform measures on Monday. They include establishing a mental health crisis response team and requiring the use of body cameras, which are not currently in use in Antioch.

John Burris, a lawyer for Mr. Quinto’s family, said Wednesday that Mr. Quinto’s mother and sister were traumatized and grieving and that they questioned the decision to invite the police to their home. “They thought that they were calling the police for help,” Mr. Burris said.

He added that the family was awaiting the results of an autopsy from an independent medical examiner. “We feel pretty strongly that this is an asphyxiation case,” he said.

The Antioch police did not respond to a request for comment. But at a news conference on Wednesday — which had been organized to share information about another man who had died in police custody early Wednesday morning — Tammany Brooks, the Police Department’s chief, said that the investigation into Mr. Quinto’s death was continuing.

According to the wrongful-death claim, Mr. Quinto sometimes struggled with anxiety and depression, and he appeared to be experiencing paranoia on the night of Dec. 23. His sister, Isabella Collins, called the police, expressing fear to the dispatcher.

The mayor of Antioch, Lamar Thorpe, said at a news conference on Monday that he had visited the Quinto family and offered his condolences. “I don’t know all of the details,” he said. “All of the details yet remain to be seen, as there is an active investigation by the D.A.’s office currently.”

A spokesman for the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office confirmed that the case was being investigated, as is protocol for every death involving law enforcement.

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