The mother of a Latino man who died in police custody in Alameda, California, after being restrained for about five minutes says her son asked the officers for help, but they didn’t have compassion for him.
Mario Gonzalez Arenales died on April 19 after officers arrived at a local park, answering separate calls about a man who appeared to be intoxicated and a possible theft. Body camera footage released by police shows the 26-year-old was unresponsive after being pinned down by officers.
“I saw his last moments of life. I saw when he asked for help… to let him breath,” his mother, Edith Arenales, said about the body camera footage.
“They did not have compassion towards my son, a person who was not armed, who wasn’t doing anything to attack them. He never offended them, I never heard him cursing because that was not Mario’s style.”
Nearly a month after her son’s death, the 45-year-old mother says her family is shaken. Yet, they want justice for him, especially because Latinos and Black people are being killed by police. The incident happened a day before former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder in George Floyd’s death and it came against the backdrop of the police killing of Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old Latino boy in Chicago.
“We can’t accept this because we are brown or Black or Hispanic like me. We are citizens, we pay taxes, we live here,” Arenales told CNN.
“It has happened to a lot of people, and because they don’t have papers (legal immigration status), because they don’t speak English… they are scared and stay quiet,” Arenales added.
The cause of Gonzalez’s death has not been determined. Sgt. Ray Kelly, a spokesman for the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department said officials expect the autopsy and toxicology results to be finalized in approximately three weeks, but noted results could come sooner.
Once the autopsy is completed, the sheriff’s department plans to convene a panel of medical and forensic experts to peer-review the work of the county coroner’s office, Kelly said.
Gonzalez’s death is under investigation by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office and the county district attorney’s office. The city of Alameda previously said it hired a private firm to also conduct an investigation.
He was his brother’s caregiver
In her mother’s Oakland apartment, photos of Gonzalez are surrounded by flowers, prayer candles as well as fruits and a glass of water — some elements of a traditional Mexican altar honoring lost loved ones.
Gonzalez would spend most of his days at the apartment, caring for his younger brother Efrain, who is 23 years old and has autism, his mother said. When Gonzalez was laid off from his job at a pizza restaurant due to the Covid-19 pandemic, he became his brother’s full-time caregiver.
“I have always thought that people who take care of people with disabilities have a gift. My son had that gift,” Arenales said.
She says her son was respectful and never offended anyone, he had “a lot of love” to give and was an adorable person.
When asked whether Gonzalez may have been intoxicated, Arenales said it appears that he was but noted she’s still waiting for the toxicology results.
“They used a lot of force on a person that they should have not done that to,” Arenales said.
Gonzalez’s mother said she had always admired police officers and now, she sees there are inexperienced officers hurting communities.
“I don’t want to keep quiet; I don’t want my son’s name to be left in vain. I want justice,” Arenales said. “What I want is for this not to happen anymore.”
What the body camera footage shows
The body camera footage released by Alameda police shows that officers found Gonzalez outside, just off a road in a residential area.
Gonzalez was talking with police and hesitated to give officers his name for approximately 10 minutes before officers attempt to restrain him, according to the footage.
Gonzalez appears to be incoherent and continues to resist arrest, prompting officers to take him to the ground, restraining him face down as he struggles and yells.
Based on the video footage, it is unclear what level of pressure the officers used.
“We have no weight on his chest, nothing,” one officer says to the others as they attempt to keep him restrained. A second appears to warn, “No weight, no weight.”
After about five minutes of being pinned down, Gonzalez appears to lose consciousness. Seconds after Gonzalez stops moving or making sounds, a police officer says Gonzalez is unresponsive. Officers roll Gonzalez over, and begin CPR, the video shows.
Minutes after CPR starts, an officer declared there was “no pulse,” the video shows. Gonzalez was later transported to a hospital.