Attorneys weigh in on whether deadly Alameda police struggle can be compared to George Floyd

As video emerged on Tuesday showing a deadly encounter between Alameda police officers and a man restrained on his stomach that ultimately led to his death, several observers weighed in on whether there was a direct parallel to that of George Floyd.

Julia Sherwin, who is representing the family of the man killed -- Mario Gonzalez -- said there is: Not only does it seem likely that Gonzalez died of "restraint asphyxia" on April 19 after the officers knelt on his back, but the sparse police narrative offered by Alameda police is also similar to what police in Minneapolis blatantly left out of their official news release of Floyd's death last May. 

SEE ALSO: Body cam video shows Alameda officer kneeling on Mario Gonzalez before death

WARNING GRAPHIC VIDEO:  Alameda officers kneel on man before his death

But there are also differences.

Legal analyst Michael Cardoza said it appears as though at least one of the officers in Alameda seemed concerned about putting too much weight on Gonzalez, who was initially stopped because a neighbor reported he was drunk in a park, and another caller suspected him of stealing alcohol from Walgreens. 

In the Floyd case, a jury found that former officer Derek Chauvin was guilty of murdering the Black man by sitting on his neck for nine minutes and did not care for Floyd's life at all. 

"I will say that during this tape, I heard one of the officers say 'Frank, be careful, don't put your knee, don't put weight on him. Be careful,'" Cardoza said. " And I guess that was ala George Floyd."

The Gonzalez case is also different in that the officers aren't seen kneeling on his neck exactly, but their knees are pressed on his back and upper right shoulder, and at times, one of the officer's elbow presses on Gonzalez's neck. 

Observers note that Gonzalez is a heavy man who weighs about 250 pounds and that restraining someone that size on his stomach can lead to problems. 

"It's pretty clear that putting someone belly down, handcuffed with weight on their back is dangerous," said Tony Brass, a criminal defense attorney, who was also a prosecutor with the San Francisco District Attorney's Office as well as the U.S. Attorney's Office. "You can absolutely perceive fear."  

Brass said, however, unlike the George Floyd case, the Alameda officer had his knee on Mario's shoulder area, not his neck, and that the length of time was much shorter than in the Floyd case. 

"We can count it from the time he's handcuffed and prone on the ground, which is only a couple of minutes by my calculations," Brass said. 

Brass added the fact that the officers continuing to try to talk to Gonzalez indicates they were trying to make sure he was conscious and breathing.

Brass also pointed out that unlike the Floyd case where none of Chauvin's colleagues challenged his behavior, in Alameda, at least some officers were questioning their partners' behavior. One officer is heard on the video asking, "Can we roll him on his side?" as others shout out not to put weight on his chest. 

"Why did one officer have a sense of urgency about that and the other did not?" Brass wondered.

What's extremely similar about both cases, Brass said is that witnessing an in-custody death is painful and traumatic. 

 "It's very difficult to watch someone die in police custody," he said. "It's incredibly tragic."