DA declines to charge Alameda police for death of Mario Gonzalez

The Alameda County District Attorney's Office on Thursday determined there would be no charges against the officers involved in the death of 26-year-old Mario Gonzalez, who stopped breathing after three officers sat on his back trying to arrest him.

DA O'Malley's 40-page report, which was issued by the city of Alameda, concluded that "the officers’ decision to detain and arrest Mr. Gonzalez, and their subsequent use of force was objectively reasonable considering the agency policies, the totality of the circumstances, and the officers’ stated rationale."

O'Malley also cited the Alameda County Coroner's findings, which ruled Gonzalez's April 19, 2021, death a homicide 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. 

O'Malley said she couldn't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officers acted unlawfully. 

The city also said Thursday that the officers, James Fisher, Cameron Leahy and Eric McKinley, whose peace officer power were suspended until the completion of investigations, are still on paid administrative leave, as a city-commissioned independent investigation is still ongoing. The city vowed to released more video and documents next week. 

"The officers are grateful the district attorney recognized that this tragic death was an unintended consequence of their legitimate and lawful actions," the officers' attorney, Alison Berry Wilkinson, told KTVU on behalf of her clients:

Neither of Gonzalez's civil attorneys, Adante Pointer and Julia Sherwin, nor his own mother had been notified of the district attorney's decision as of Thursday evening.

However, Sherwin, who is representing Gonzalez's son, said she was "not surprised" by the DA's failure to "bring criminal charges, because it remains rare that police who kill unarmed people of color in this country ever face criminal consequences. The only people who hold officers who commit these crimes accountable are typically the victims' families, in federal civil rights cases. " 

The Huffington Post first reported that district attorney declined to charge the three involved officers, nearly one year after Gonzalez's death.

On the day that Gonzalez died, police were called out after neighbors called a non-emergency line to say that a man who appeared to be intoxicated was walking around a small parklet in front of their homes.

Gonzalez was never aggressive with the officers, video at the scene shows, but he also did not provide them with the ID that they asked for. 

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,  trying to get him into handcuffs.

Sherwin and others have questioned why he needed to be arrested in the first place. 

In an initial news release, police simply stated that Gonzalez died after a "scuffle" and "physical altercation" resulting in a "medical emergency." 

Federal civil rights lawsuits have been filed separately on behalf of Gonzalez's mother and son that allege the three officers "used excessive force against (Gonzalez), and unjustified deadly force that included a suffocating restraint" that caused the chef and father to die from restraint asphyxia.

Many have found similarities between Gonzalez's death and that of George Floyd's.  

O’Malley, who is not running again for office, has leveled charges against an officer once before, in September 2020 when she filed manslaughter charges against former San Leandro Police Sgt. Jason Fletcher in the shooting death Steven Taylor, who was wielding a bat in Walmart.