Alameda youth ask tough questions of police, city leaders in the wake of Mario Gonzalez's death

Alameda high school students on Friday asked tough questions of the police and city leaders in the wake of Mario Gonzalez's death.

How can we trust the Alameda police?

What are you doing to combat racism?

Why wasn't a mental health crisis team sent in to deal with Gonzalez, when a neighbor called 911 to say he hanging around drunk in a park on April 19?

What are you going to do to hold the police accountable for kneeling on Gonzalez's back?

Their pointed inquiries, made on a Zoom call during their lunch break from Alameda High, stem from the death of Gonzalez, who was seen dying on police video this week after three officers kneeled on his back to get him into handcuffs. He was intoxicated on Oak Street during the day and a neighbor said his wife was scared that he had moved into their driveway.

The officers' attorney told KTVU that the police arrested Gonzalez "for his own safety," but the Gonzalez family lawyer said that notion is "ridiculous." 

The video shows that Gonzalez, 26, was incoherent during the exchange and was not happy about being detained, but he had not threatened anyone in the park, nor did he threaten the police officers.

Gonzalez's story had made national news and has been compared to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May. In fact, he died as the jury was deliberating on the case and who ultimately found former Officer Derick Chauvin guilty on all counts of murdering Floyd by sitting on his neck. 

Raquel Williams, a teen who helped organized the event, asked many of the questions directly to Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft, City Manager Eric Levitt and Police Capt. Matt McMullin.

She wanted to know what they planned to do about Alameda's history of systemic racism and how they were going to change police culture. 

Many of the teen's questions were left unanswered -- such as will the police be fired and charged with murder? -- as city officials said those aspects are currently under investigation. 

However, Ashcraft did say that she and Vice Mayor Melia Vella were moving forward with seeing how the city can adopt a crisis-counselor-centered approach to many police calls, like they have in Eugene, Ore., as well as forming a civilian oversight of the police department.

Both of those ideas are now proposals and there is no time frame on when either will come to fruition.

But the mayor did say she was looking at what could be "accelerated," such as new training for dispatchers to figure out what kinds of calls police really need to be called out for. 

The mayor will be having a Town Hall on May 7 regarding police reform and racial equity and a special council meeting about Mario Gonzalez on May 8 at 3 p.m. 

Lisa Fernandez is a reporter for KTVU. Email Lisa at or call her at 510-874-0139. Or follow her on Twitter @ljfernandez