2nd lawsuit filed following death of Mario Gonzalez after encounter with Alameda police

A second federal civil rights lawsuit has been filed following the death of Mario Gonzalez, who died last spring during an encounter with Alameda police.

This plaintiff in this suit, filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, is Gonzalez's mother, Edith Arenales. She is being represented by attorney Adante Pointer.

This suit nearly mirrors a suit filed in December by attorney Julia Sherwin on behalf of Gonzalez's 5-year-old son, Mario Jr. 

The two parties have not publicly said why they are filing separate lawsuits.

Both alleged that Alameda Police officers Eric McKinley, James Fisher and Cameron Leahy "used excessive force against (Gonzalez), and unjustified deadly force that included a suffocating restraint" that caused the 26-year-old chef and father to die from restraint asphyxia.

The lawsuit said officers failed to de-escalate the situation and knew Gonzalez did not pose any danger and didn’t make any "threatening action toward any of the officers."

Gonzales was clearly confused and disoriented, the suit contends, while also alleging the police department’s "failure to discipline or retrain the Defendant Officers is evidence of an official policy, entrenched culture and posture of deliberate indifference toward protecting citizen’s rights."

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The city said the officers have been on leave since Gonzalez's death more than nine months ago.  

In an email to KTVU following the first suit, attorney Patrick Moriarty, who is representing Alameda, said: "The loss of Mario Gonzalez’s life was indeed tragic, and the City will defend itself, its former police chief, and the named officers against the allegations."

Alison Berry Wilkinson, the attorney representing the three officers, said in December that her clients "look forward to the opportunity to prove in federal court that their actions during this encounter were reasonable, necessary, and lawful."

Gonzalez died on April 19, 2021, after neighbors called police to say that a man who appeared to be intoxicated was walking around a small parklet in front of their homes. 

Body camera footage showed McKinley speaking to Gonzalez for nine minutes before he, Fisher and Leahy restrained him face-down on the ground for five minutes. 

Gonzalez went limp while being restrained and didn’t have a pulse when he arrived at Alameda Hospital, according to the coroner’s report.

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In December, the Alameda County Coroner released Gonzalez's autopsy report, showing that "the officers were applying pressure to [Mario’s] torso and legs with at least some of the weight of their bodies" and the "stress of the altercation and restraint" contributed to his death, along with his obesity, alcoholism, and recent use of methamphetamine. 

Ultimately, the coroner's officer ruled the death a homicide. 

Several experts have said that officers have long been trained not to handcuff people facedown on the ground as it can lead to "restraint asphyxia."

By coincidence, the city of Alameda again this week denied making police records, including whether the officers face any internal discipline, public.

That's because the city attorney's office said they are still awaiting a decision by the Alameda County District Attorney to see whether criminal charges will be filed against the officers for their use of force. 

"Because disclosure of the investigation material could prejudice the potential testimony of both potential parties and witnesses in a criminal enforcement proceeding, the Alameda Police Department will continue to withhold all investigative material that has not yet been publicly released," the city attorney's office wrote. 


Lisa Fernandez is a reporter for KTVU. Email Lisa at lisa.fernandez@fox.com or call her at 510-874-0139.