ANTIOCH - The family of a 30-year-old Antioch man who died after police responded to their home in December filed a wrongful death legal claim against the city, saying officers asphyxiated the man by putting a knee on his neck.
The family of Angelo Quinto filed the claim in federal court on Thursday – a necessary precursor to a lawsuit when suing a municipality.
"These Antioch police officers had already handcuffed Angelo but did not stop their assault on the young man and inexplicitly began using the 'George Floyd' technique of placing a knee on the back and side of his neck, ignoring Mr. Quinto pleas of ‘please don’t kill me,’" the family’s attorney, John Burris, said Thursday.
Quinto’s mother, Cassandra Quinto-Collins, described the Dec. 23 episode to KTVU. She said her son had recently been experiencing mental health problems.
The former Navy sailor was holding onto his mother and sister, Isabella, telling them not to leave him.
Isabella called 911, while the mother held onto her son on the floor of their bedroom.
Police arrived at the home and by that time Quinto had calmed down, they said. The officers still restrained him, Quinto-Collins said.
"One officer was holding his legs and the other officer had his knee or lower leg here," she said, motioning to the back of her neck.
After several minutes, Quinto was unconscious. His mother recognized something was wrong and began recording on her cell phone. Quinto is seen unconscious on the bedroom floor with blood coming from his mouth.
Burris said he never regained conscious. The family conducted an independent autopsy, which Burris said determined Quinto was asphyxiated.
"He literally was dead within five minutes," Burris said.
The Antioch Police Department never issued a press release or statement about the case when it happened. They also have not released the officers’ names or said whether they were wearing body-worn cameras.
The coroner’s autopsy is still pending.
Antioch police Lt. John Fortner issued a statement to KTVU on Wednesday, saying the investigation is still open.
"Once some additional portions of the investigation are completed APD will be getting together with all the involved agencies to provide more information to the public," he said in the statement.
The family, meanwhile, hopes their legal claim will help answer some questions.
"I don’t believe this happened," the sister, Isabella, said. That’s the only reason I’m able to talk and not scream right now."
Evan Sernoffsky is an investigative reporter for KTVU. Email Evan at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EvanSernoffsky