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California Man Died 5 Minutes After Police Knelt on Him, Family Says

Angelo Quinto, 30, asked officers not to kill him shortly before he lost consciousness, according to a wrongful death claim filed against the city of Antioch by his family.

He was already on the floor when Maria Quinto-Collins began filming her son at her home in Antioch, Calif., on Dec. 23, unresponsive.

A pair of officers with the Antioch Police Department can be seen in the footage rolling the son, Angelo Quinto, to his side from his stomach. Ms. Quinto-Collins can repeatedly be heard asking, "What happened?"

Mr. Quinto, 30, never regained consciousness; 3 days later, he died. His family filed a wrongful-death claim against the city last week. It was said that the two officers who responded to Mr. Quinto's sister's call knelt on Mr. Quinto's back to subdue him for almost five minutes and that he had "died as a direct result of the unreasonable force used against him."

The claim seeking punitive damages was brought against Antioch, which is located in Contra Costa County, about 45 miles east of San Francisco, on Feb. 18. The town has 45 days to react.

At home in Berkeley, Calif., in 2018, Angelo Quinto
At home in Berkeley, Calif., in 2018, Angelo Quinto

Last week, The East Bay Times reported that information about Mr. Quinto's death was not publicly shared by the police until after the newspaper asked about the case late last month. The case has gained national attention since then, in part because it seemed to echo the murder of George Floyd, who died in May after Derek Chauvin, a Minneapolis police officer, for more than eight minutes pressed a knee into his neck, prompting nationwide protests against racism and police brutality.

Mr. Quinto's family lawyer, John Burris, said Wednesday that Mr. Quinto's mother and sister were traumatized and grieving and that they were questioning the decision to invite the police to their home. Mr. Burris said, "They thought they were calling the police for help."

He added that the family was awaiting an independent medical examiner's results of an autopsy. He said, "We feel quite strongly that this is an asphyxiation case."

A request for comment was not answered by the Antioch police. But at a Wednesday news conference organized to share information about another man who died in police custody early Wednesday morning, Tammany Brooks, the chief of the Police Department, said the investigation into the death of Mr. Quinto was ongoing.

Mr. Quinto sometimes struggled with anxiety and depression, according to the wrongful-death claim, and on the night of Dec. 23, he appeared to be experiencing paranoia. His sister, Isabella Collins, called the police and expressed the dispatcher's fear.

Ms. Quinto-Collins was holding her son in her arms when the officers arrived to calm him down, the statement said. He was pulled away by the officers and Mr. Quinto asked them not to kill him, according to the claim.

Then, the claim said, he was held on his mother's bedroom floor and handcuffed while the officers placed their lower legs against his neck to press him down, first one, then the other. Smudges of blood appeared beneath the face of Mr. Quinto.

"Mr. Quinto did not physically or verbally resist at any time while being restrained," the statement said. "Mr. Quinto became lifeless after being restrained for almost five minutes."

angelo quinto
angelo quinto navy veteran

His mother started filming around that time. Ms. Quinto-Collins can be heard asking if her son has a pulse, and then administering chest compressions. The footage shows emergency responders checking for signs of life.

On Wednesday, the coroner from Contra Costa County, who is part of the sheriff's office, could not be reached but told CNN that the cause of death had yet to be released.

At a news conference on Monday, the mayor of Antioch, Lamar Thorpe, said that he had visited the Quinto family and offered his condolences. "All the details, I don't know," he said. "All the details remain to be seen, as there is currently an active investigation by the office of the D.A."

A spokesman for the District Attorney's Office of Contra Costa County confirmed that the case was being investigated, as is protocol for all deaths involving law enforcement.

On Monday, Mr. Thorpe, who became mayor after campaigning for calls for police reform in December, announced a list of reform measures. These include setting up a team for mental health crisis response and requiring the use of body cameras that are currently not in use in Antioch.

A Navy veteran who was going through an episode of paranoia died after a Northern California police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes, his family said Tuesday. The family of Angelo Quinto called police on December 23 because the 30-year-old was suffering a mental health crisis and needed help.