Antioch mayor aims to ban potentially deadly police holds

Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe will introduce new legislation this week banning potentially deadly police holds following community outrage over recent in-custody deaths, including the December death of Angelo Quinto, the mayor told KTVU Monday. 

Thorpe will introduce the resolution banning techniques that can seriously risk causing positional asphyxia at Tuesday’s city council meeting. 

"We should always look at ways to preserve life," Thorpe said in an interview with KTVU outside City Hall. "This is a national conversation we’re having around police reform and so were doing our part, I think, as local leaders."

Positional asphyxia cases have received more attention following the death of George Floyd last year in Minnesota along with several local cases. 

When a person is in a prone position – like on their stomach with weight on their back -- their lungs cannot expand.  If a person is obese or intoxicated – they have a greater chance of dying, experts say.

Many California law enforcement organizations train officers to immediately turn people on their side after putting handcuffs on them because of the risk of asphyxia. 

"If you’re a police officer and you have both hands on somebody’s back and you’re applying all your weight on that individual you can cause positional asphyxiation," Thorpe said.

The union representing Antioch officers did not reply to a request for comment. If the resolution passes, it will need to go through a meet-and-confer process with the union. 

Antioch and its police force have been under recent scrutiny following the December death of Angelo Quinto. 

Officers responded to a call of a mental health crisis and restrained Quinto on his stomach for several minutes. He fell unconscious and was pronounced dead at a hospital

The coroner’s office on Friday ruled that Quinto died from excited delirium -- a controversial theory recently opposed by the American Medical Association

"It’s junk science," Civil Rights attorney John Burris said of the finding. He’s representing Quinto’s family and rejected the coroner’s findings last week. "We still do believe this was restraint asphyxia. There was nothing given today that suggests otherwise."

The mayor’s proposed law mirrors a statewide bill that’s currently in the legislature. If passed AB 490 would similarly ban techniques that could risk causing positional asphyxia.

Whether or not the legislation becomes law in California, Thorpe plans to move forward with the issue locally. 

"We shouldn’t always wait for state action to tell us what to do -- to tell us to do the right thing," Thorpe said.

Evan Sernoffsky is an investigative reporter for KTVU. Email Evan at and follow him on Twitter @EvanSernoffsky.