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Alameda County DA Price to file charges against Alameda cops in 2021 Mario Gonzalez death

Alameda County DA to file charges against cops in Mario Gonzalez death
Alameda County DA to file charges against cops in Mario Gonzalez death 03:36

District Attorney Pamela Price on Thursday evening announced she plans to file charges against the three Alameda police officers involved in the 2021 in-custody death of Mario Gonzalez.

Price made the announcement at a press conference at around 6 p.m. Thursday. She said the officers would be charged with involuntary manslaughter. 

During the press conference, Price misspoke about the possible sentence the charge could carry, saying the officers could be in state prison for 15 years to life. Her office later clarified that the possible sentence was up to four years.

The city of Alameda released a statement confirming the charges a short time later.

"At this time, one of the three involved officers is no longer employed by the City of Alameda.  The two other officers currently employed by the City of Alameda have been placed on administrative leave," the statement read.  

Police Custody Death
In this image taken from Alameda Police Department body camera video, Alameda Police Department officers attempt to take 26-year-old Mario Gonzalez into custody, April 19, 2021, in Alameda, Calif. The video goes on to show officers pinning Gonzalez to the ground during the arrest that ended in his death. (Alameda Police Department via AP) / AP

Gonzalez was suspected of stealing alcohol on April 19, 2021, when he was confronted by the officers in Alameda on the 800 block of Oak Street following 911 calls. 

The officers struggled to detain him as a suspect in the possible theft after he was unable to provide identification. During his arrest, officers pinned him to the ground until he went limp and died.

Police bodycam video that was released days later showed Gonzalez gasping and crying out as officers pressed their body weight on his back, neck and shoulder, including one officer pressing his knee for several minutes in Gonzalez's back.  

A coroner's report indicated the cause of death was a combination of drugs along with the physical stress of the altercation with officers.

Former Alameda County DA Nancy O'Malley announced that she would not criminally prosecute the officers in April of 2022.

Family members spoke out after the incident, wondering how this could happen to their loved one.

"They had no reason to detain him," brother Jerry Gonzalez said in April of 2021. "They took a calm situation and made it fatal." 

When Price took office, she said the Gonzalez custody death was one of the cases she planned to take another look at, reopening it in January of last year. Thursday's announcement comes almost exactly three years after Gonzalez died.

The district attorney didn't say what her Public Accountability Unit found to warrant these charges being filed. "I can't comment on that," Price said. "I can't comment on that. The matter is pending before the court and so the details of how the PAU came to this decision and particularly what my predecessor did."

The city of Alameda reached two separate settlements with Gonzalez's family, one of them worth over $11 million.

Michael Haddad, who represented Gonzalez' now 7-year-old son in the civil case that won the $11 million settlement, declined to be interviewed on camera but told KPIX these are appropriate charges. Haddad said that, after the civil judgment, he handed over his case, including evidence needed to pursue criminal charges.

While Price made the announcement, she says she had nothing to do with the decision to prosecute the officers and will not manage the prosecution of this case.

"It was a decision that I made," Price said. "It's a technical matter and I'm not able to speak on it at this time."

Two of the officers remain on paid administrative leave with the Alameda Police Department. The other has left for another agency.

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