The Alameda Police Department in California has released body camera footage of the in-custody death of 26-year-old Oakland man Mario Gonzalez.
The department issued two press releases prior to releasing the body camera footage which give varying accounts of what occurred.
“On Monday, April 19, patrol officers responded to two separate reports of a male who appeared to be under the influence and a suspect in a possible theft,” the first release states. The time of the incident is listed as 10:45 a.m.
“Officers attempted to detain the man, and a physical altercation ensued,” the first release continued. “At the time, the man had a medical emergency. Officers immediately began lifesaving measures and requested the Alameda Fire Department to the scene. The Alameda Fire Department transported the male to a local area hospital, where he later died.”
Independent investigations by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office and the Alameda County District Attorney’s office were promised.
The second release, dated the next day, April 20, named Gonzalez as the man who died.
“The cause of Mr. Gonzalez’s death is not yet known, as an autopsy is pending. The cause of Mr. Gonzalez’s medical emergency is also not yet known. Preliminary information indicates that after the officers made contact with him, there was a scuffle as officers attempted to place his hands behind his back. Officers did not use any weapons during the scuffle with Mr. Gonzales.”
The last reference to the man’s name is misspelled in the original.
A third investigation was further promised by an “outside investigator” hired by the City of Alameda. It clarified that body camera video of the incident was not immediately released because investigators from the sheriff’s office and from the prosecutor’s office wanted to interview witnesses before the video was disseminated.
The fifty-nine minute and eight-second recording released Tuesday contains multiple 911 calls and body camera videos from several officers.
“Hi, uh, my name’s [redacted],” the first caller said. “There’s a man, uh, in my front yard kind of talking to himself. And — no mask, and I went out there, and the dogs are barking at him, and he’s — he’s talking to us but not making any sense. And I don’t know what to do.”
The dispatcher asked for the caller’s address and phone number, both of which were also redacted. The caller then provided a physical description of Gonzalez: a Hispanic male, dark hair down to his shoulders, a ski cap, a brown hoodie with the arms cut off, a black shirt underneath, and black shorts.
“He’s just sitting on the other side of the fence and he’s facing our yard . . . we’ve got an 8-month-old baby,” the caller continued.
The caller suggested that Gonzalez was “just hanging out” and “wasn’t doing anything wrong” but was “scaring” the caller’s wife.
“It seems like he’s tweaking,” the caller also said.
A second caller said a man matching Gonzalez’s description appeared to be be carrying two Walgreens baskets containing two alcohol bottles. The man appeared to be “breaking the security tags” off the bottles and smashed one of them in the process at a street corner near a park.
The first officer’s body camera video appears next. What follows is an attempt to transcribe what occurred. An official transcript may some day ascertain some of the inaudible words and contain more detail. Some of the recordings were hard to make out due to Gonzalez’s speech, wind, and other noise.
“Hey, bud. How’s it going?” the first officer asked as he approached Gonzalez approximately five minutes and 44 seconds into the combined recordings.
“Fine,” Gonzalez said.
“Just coming to check on you and make sure you’re okay. Somebody called and said you were, uh, maybe not feeling so great.”
“Well, I’m feeling alright, I guess,” Gonzalez said.
“You’re alright?” the officer asked in conversation.
“It’s just that — I think I’ve been staying here for longest,” Gonzalez said.
“Really? I don’t think we’ve met before,” the officer said.
“Yeah, maybe,” Gonzalez said. “So, now, it’s — it’s — probably, like, my — my — like, I don’t know what’s going on.”
“Are you not feeling okay or what?” the officer asked.
“Yeah, I’m feeling, a bit, like, alright. Like — uh — something happened over there.”
Gonzalez was mumbling and is hard to hear at times.
“Where?” the officer asked.
“Okay, so, yeah,” Gonzalez said.
“Something happened where?” the officer asked.
“It seemed like there’s something’s going on around in there, someone, like, walking around like crazy. So that’s my, uh, something happened.”
“Something happened today?” the officer asked again.
“Yeah, uh huh,” Gonzalez said.
The officer asked Gonzalez if he felt like hurting himself in an apparent attempt to see if the man was suicidal.
“It’s not that,” Gonzalez said.
“What is it then?” the officer asked.
“Like, something’s going on, like, you know, like, you’re talking about this,” Gonzalez said.
“What?” the officer asked.
Gonzalez backed into a small tree and paused to pick some items up on the ground. He referenced something “blue.” It’s hard to make out the full conversation at this point.
The officer radios dispatch. He also continues speaking with Gonzalez, but his end of the conversation remains difficult to understand.
The officer asked Gonzalez how he wound up in the small park where the encounter commenced.
“I came walking like down over there, and first I was walking through here, and then over here, how did I ended up right here?” Gonzalez said.
“Yeah, you walked over here?” the officer asked.
“Yeah, probably happened like a month ago,” Gonzalez replied.
“A month? Oh, okay,” the surprised officer asked. “Were you, like, sleeping back here, or what?”
Gonzalez didn’t give an audible answer. The officer tried to ask his name. Gonzalez eventually complained that someone stole his “phone” and his “stuff.”
Parts of the conversation were had to ascertain at that point. The officer again attempts to ask the man his name. He identifies himself as Officer McKinley, which Gonzalez struggles to pronounce in return.
Gonzalez again didn’t provide his name. He again referenced a phone and that “something happened.”
He said his name was “something Mario.”
The officer asked Gonzalez to keep his hands out of his pockets and said he was concerned about Gonzalez’s open container.
Gonzalez stopped to look at the items in his shopping baskets.
A second officer arrived.
“So, so, they’re telling me there’s something about stuff, you know, and I think . . . somebody, like somebody’s . . . some thing, you know . . . ”
Gonzalez trailed off.
The conversation reverted to the topic of Gonzalez’s name.
McKinley said he wanted to positively identify Gonzalez and ensure he wasn’t going to continue drinking in a park. He said he would have to take Gonzalez into custody if he did not have an ID.
“ID?” Gonzalez asked. “So, I was walking like that, a little bit . . .”
The conversation trailed off before the second officer also asked Gonzalez for ID so they could “document” who they were talking to
“I seen somebody . . . like, stuff like that my couple papers, my cards.”
Gonzales seemed to say that he lived in Alameda but that he “hadn’t bought his house yet.”
Gonzalez rummaged in his pockets again. He then paused and leaned toward a concrete plinth erected in the park. Officers asked him to take his hands out of his pockets and to walk with them so he didn’t fall down or get hurt by striking the concrete. They they tried to place his hands behind his back.
“No, wait, wait, wait, it’s, it’s — wait — what the heck?” Gonzalez appears to say while suddenly turning to look back at the items in his baskets and away from the two officers on the scene.
“Walk with me” the officers twice implored.
Gonzalez then struggled with the officers.
“Just relax for us, okay?” the officers said. “Hey, hey! Do me a favor, Mario? Please don’t resist us, okay? Mario? Please don’t resist us, okay?”
Gonzalez appeared to suggest he didn’t do anything.
Gonzalez was bent over and appeared to start struggling to breathe.
“Holy smokes!” someone — likely Gonzalez — uttered.
Officers kept imploring him to put his hands behind his back.
“I think we’ve talked before, Mario, and this is all coming back to me now,” the first officer, McKinley, said. It is unclear what McKinley was referencing.
“I didn’t do nothing, okay?” Gonzalez said several times.
“No, it’s not that, I’m good . . . oh, damn, no wonder. I got a . . . problem” Gonzalez said. Some of his partial words were hard to understand or decipher.
“Mario, please put your hand behind your back. Okay, please stop resisting us, okay! Don’t fight us.”
“It’s not that. It’s something else, okay?” Gonzalez said. “I didn’t do nothing, alright?”
“You’ve just got to relax,” the officers said.
“It’s not that,” Gonzalez said. “Please stop.”
“What the heck?” he said at one point.
“Mario, put your hands behind your back. You got it? You good?”
“Oh my God, it’s not that, it’s not that. It’s a basket. Don’t do it; don’t do it,” Gonzalez continued.
When police again asked Gonzalez to stop resisting, Gonzalez exclaimed as follows in non sequitur fashion: “Oh, no wonder! There! I got it! Yie, yie, yie!”
“What do you have?” the officers asked.
“No, it’s not that,” Gonzalez said. “No, it was from that . . . thing . . . Nope . . . ”
Officers took Gonzalez to the ground 17 minutes and 35 seconds into the video as he yelled “stop, stop, stop!”
Gonzalez was on the ground approximately 11 minutes and 24 seconds after the first officer arrived.
“He’s lifting my whole body weight up,” the second officer said at one point.
Officers continued to tell Gonzalez to put his hands behind his back.
“You got his legs?” one officer asked the other.
“Yeah,” the other officer responded.
“Are you able to get the arm out?” was the next question.
The officer who started the encounter then pulled a set of handcuffs and attempted to cuff Gonzalez.
“Hello. Woo! Sir! I’m so sorry! Woo!” Gonzalez said. Some of his other words were hard to decipher. He laughed several times as the officers attempted to cuff him. He also may have said “help me” and “get off me” several times.
Gonzalez was face down on the ground.
“It’s okay, Mario,” the one officer said. “We’re going to take care of you, okay?”
“Thank you! AAHHH! Thank you! Thank you!” Gonzalez said while intermittently crying out and yelling.
Gonzalez gave his name as Mario Alberto.
The second officer appeared to press his knee into Gonzalez’s back as Gonzalez cried out.
Officers asked multiple times for Gonzalez’s birthday.
“No!” he yelled in response. “Aahhh! Ahhhh!”
Gonzalez appeared to say he didn’t feel good.
“I think you’ve just had too much to drink today; that’s all,” one of the officers said.
Gonzalez continued to moan and wail.
The officers asked him to stop kicking.
At 22:13, one of the officers asks if Gonzalez should be rolled onto his side. The other responded that he didn’t want to lose his hold.
“Could you grab the wrap out of 111?” one officer said to another who arrived.
“Mario, just please stop fighting us,” they said to Gonzalez.
“We have no weight on his chest; nothing,” one officer said. “No, no; no, no; no weight,” one said to another.
The officers rolled Gonzalez onto his side at 22:41 into the video, or approximately five minutes after they took him to the ground. Gonzalez appeared to lose consciousness about that time. They called his name several times and asked if he had a pulse. CPR was contemplated. Gonzalez was rolled onto his back.
“He’s still holding his head up,” one officer said at 23:13. Officers checked multiple times for a pulse in quick succession.
“No pulse,” one officer said at 23:18.
Multiple officers had arrived.
An order to commence CPR was given by 23:20.
“Are you sure?” one officer asked.
“Yeah,” was the immediate response.
CPR commenced at 23:26.
Officers called “Mario! Mario!” several as they performed CPR. “Wake up!
One officer suggested that Gonzalez appeared to be trying to breathe.
“Don’t let him bite you,” one officer said.
Officers again checked Gonzalez for a pulse at 24:35 and suggested he was trying to breathe. They then rolled him into a recovery position. His handcuffs were removed. One officer asked what Gonzalez had taken.
“Alcohol is all I know,” one officer said.
A first NARCAN dose was administered at 25:56.
A second NARCAN dose was administered at 26:10.
Officers traded turns performing CPR.
The sirens of approaching paramedics could be heard in the distance.
Gonzalez still had no pulse at about 27:55.
Fire department paramedics arrived at about 28:00.
The video then cuts to the second responding officer’s body camera video at 28:42. It captured some of the interaction with Gonzalez in the small park where officers first encountered him.
The video cuts to another responding officer’s body camera at about 50:51. That officer arrived as others were already struggling with Gonzalez on the ground.
“Let me go!” Gonzalez can be heard saying during this third officer’s body camera recording at about 52:11. He made the comment while he was still on the ground and right after he was asked for his date of birth.
He then appeared to say something about dying.
Gonzalez’s family set up a GoFundMe account with a goal of $120,000. The page directly blames the police for killing Gonzalez.
“APD released a statement saying that Mario suffered a medical emergency while in their custody, but Mario was healthy and suffered no medical conditions,” the page reads. “Mario was not a violent person. Mario was kind. He helped my mom take care of our brother. He wouldn’t hurt anyone. Our family needs answers.”
“Our fight for justice remains re-affirmed after what we witnessed,” it also says. “Continue to hold us in your prayers and stand in solidarity with us and all the families whose loved ones have been killed by police.”
In a press conference during which family members demanded answers, Gonzalez’s brother said the video was “painful to watch” due to its “violence and disregard for his humanity.”
“The footage shows officers on top of Mario while he was face down on the ground,” Gerardo Gonzalez continued. “They had their weight on his head and his back. He was complying and they continued to pin him down with their weight. Everything we saw in that video was unnecessary and unprofessional. And it took a minuscule event and made it fatal.”
Read the department’s press releases below:
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]