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Friends of Mario Gonzalez' family welcome charges against Alameda officers

Friends of Mario Gonzalez welcome charges against Alameda officers
Friends of Mario Gonzalez welcome charges against Alameda officers 03:50

ALAMEDA -- Three police officers are facing involuntary manslaughter charges in the death of an Oakland man in Alameda three years ago.

Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price would not say if there's any new evidence. Her office charged the officers on Thursday, just before the third anniversary of the death and a day before the statute of limitations was set to expire. 

The officers are Eric McKinley, Cameron Leahy and James Fisher. Officer Fisher now works for the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office. A previous district attorney and a few independent investigations had cleared the officers of any wrongdoing.

"We're trying to rebuild trust in a system that has not always been fair to folks, particularly in Alameda County,"  Price said.

On April 19, 2021, officers caught up with 26-year-old Mario Gonzalez in a theft investigation. He appeared incoherent in a police bodycam video. After talking with him for nine minutes,  officers decided to detain him. They said he resisted, so they took him down to the ground where an officer placed a knee on his back. After struggling for about five minutes, Gonzalez stopped breathing.

Friends of Mario Gonzalez' family welcomed news of the criminal charges against the officers.

"True justice would've been our loved ones never stolen (from us). And we see here, the process is civil settlement first and then, if we're lucky, we will get criminal charges," said Amanda Majail-Blanco, who works for CURYJ, a restorative youth justice non-profit organization.

Her brother, Erik Salgado, also died at the hands of law enforcement. Those officers were never charged.

"I still carry a lot of rage in me. I put that into energy and faith and hope. Actually, seeing this with Mario's family does give me a beam of light in our case," Majail-Blanco said.

Attorney Alison Berry Wilkinson represents Officer Cameron Leahy. She said this is all politics with Price facing a recall. In a statement, she wrote in part, "the officers' actions while taking Mr. Gonzalez into custody were reasonable, necessary and lawful."

"What the public should know is I am walled off from the case. I will not be participating and have not participated in the ultimate decision about the case," Price said.

Price said she had no influence on the case and her team made the charging decision.

Her supporters said it's about holding everyone accountable.

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