Police Kneeled on Mario Gonzalez Before He Died, Bodycam Footage Shows

Alameda Police attempted to arrest Gonzalez after he appeared disoriented in a park. There are now three investigations into his death.
April 28, 2021, 6:05pm
​A still from police body camera footage of police detaining Mario Gonzalez​ shortly before his death.
A still from police body camera footage of police detaining Mario Gonzalez shortly before his death. (City of Alameda)

A Latino man in the Bay Area died after officers pinned him to the ground for more than five minutes, kneeling on his back and shoulder at various points before he became unresponsive, body camera footage released Tuesday shows.

Mario Gonzalez, 26, died April 19 after an encounter with cops in the city of Alameda, near Oakland. Police had received a pair of 911 calls about a disoriented man “who had some alcohol bottles.”

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Warning: the video below is graphic and disturbing. 

The video released Tuesday, which includes footage from multiple police bodycams, shows cops arriving at the park and talking to Gonzalez, who seems to be disoriented. Officers ask him for ID, which he doesn’t produce. 

“I’ve got to identify you, so I know who I’m talking to [and] make sure you don’t have any warrants or anything like that,” one of the cops says to Gonzalez. “You come up with a plan, let me know you’re not going to be drinking in our parks over here, and then we can be on our merry way.”  

Eventually, after talking with Gonzalez for about 10 minutes, the officers grab his arms and try to force them behind his back. Gonzalez resists, asking them to stop several times and apologizing. 

Eventually, after talking with Gonzalez for about 10 minutes, the officers grab his arms and try to force them behind his back. Gonzalez resists, asking them to stop several times and apologizing. 

One cop says, “I think we might have to put him on the ground,” and moments later, they do. At various points while Gonzalez is on the ground, officers kneel on his back and neck, and sometimes subdue him with their elbows.  Even as Gonzalez is being pinned to the ground, he continues to say, “I’m sorry,” and one of the officers responds, “It’s OK, alright? I forgive you.” 

Less than a minute later, one officer says, “You think we can roll him on his side?” The other responds: “I don’t want to lose what I got, man.” One officer tells the other that there’s “no weight” on Gonzalez’s chest.

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Less than 30 seconds after this exchange, one of the cops rolls Gonzalez over and says, “He’s going unresponsive.” The videos then show officers attempting to revive Gonzalez using CPR. An officer in the video also gives Gonzalez Narcan, a nasal spray used to revive people who’ve overdosed on opioids.

In an initial statement following Gonzalez’s death, Alameda Police said officers “attempted to detain the man, and a physical altercation ensued. At that time, the man had a medical emergency.” They also said he died at a local hospital, but the city of Alameda referred to Gonzalez’s death as an “in-custody death” on Tuesday. 

A lawyer for Gonzalez’s family said the footage showed that the original police statement was “misinformation.”

“His death was completely avoidable and unnecessary,” Julia Sherwin, Gonzalez’s family’s attorney, told the New York Times. “Drunk guy in a park doesn’t equal a capital sentence.”

Gonzalez’s family started a GoFundMe to help with funeral costs as well as other financial support. More than $80,000 has been raised so far. 

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The three officers involved in the arrest have been placed on paid leave, according to the Associated Press

Gonzalez’s death in police custody is reminiscent of the death of George Floyd, who died in May of 2020 after Officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck and back for more than nine minutes. Chauvin was convicted of murder the day after Gonzalez died.

An autopsy for Gonzalez is pending, and the city of Alameda said Tuesday that three separate investigations into his death have been launched. One will be conducted by the county DA, another by the sheriff’s office, and an independent outside investigation will be led by Louise Renne, a former San Francisco city supervisor and city attorney. Renne also previously served as the president of the San Francisco police commission, the governing body of the city’s police department. 

In a statement accompanying the video of the events leading to Gonzalez’s death released Wednesday, the city of Alameda said it’s “committed to full transparency and accountability in the aftermath of Mr. Gonzalez’s death.”

Gonzalez had a four-year-old son and served as the primary caretaker of his 22-year-old autistic brother, according to the Associated Press

“He’s a lovely guy. He’s respectful, all the time,” Gonzalez’s mother, Edith Arenales, told the AP. “They broke my family for no reason.”