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Mario Gonzalez's family reacts to Alameda officers being charged for his death

Three years after a man died in police custody, the Alameda County DA says three Alameda police officers involved will now face involuntary manslaughter charges in the death of Mario Gonzalez.

His mom, friends and family were at a vigil in his honor Friday at the park where the deadly 2021 police encounter happened. Now, Gonzalez’s family hopes this week’s announcement is a step towards the justice they say they want to see.

The 26-year-old died while being restrained by Alameda police officers. His mom, Edith Arenales, feels it’s the first time she could see accountability for her son’s death.

Current and former Alameda officers Eric McKinley, James Fisher, and Cameron Leahy are being charged with involuntary manslaughter brought by District Attorney Pamela Price’s office.

Body camera footage shows the officers pin Gonzalez down while trying to restrain him for several minutes before he loses consciousness.

“We are trying to rebuild trust in a system that has not always been fair to folks, particularly in Alameda County,” said Price. 

The charges reversed the decision by former DA Nancy O’Malley clearing the officers of any wrongdoing, despite Gonzalez’s death being ruled a homicide. 

An autopsy revealed Gonzalez died from the effects of methamphetamine combined with the stress of the altercation, obesity and alcoholism.

The attorney representing Gonzalez’s young son, who won an $11 million civil lawsuit against the city in the case, believes the criminal charges are overdue. But wonders if they will stick as DA Price faces a recall election.

“If non-police officers had done this to another person, they would’ve been charged and waiting in jail a long time ago,” Michael Haddad, who represents Gonzalez’s son, said. “My concern is there can be a lot of delay by the officers’ criminal defense lawyers and there is a recall election that is going to happen with the DA’s office that we don’t know what’s going to happen with that.”

On Friday, Alameda police Chief Nishant Joshi said that after a fourth independent review, he stands by the decision that Alameda police officers did nothing wrong.

In a statement, officer Leahy’s attorney calls the move a “political prosecution” saying DA Price waited to charge until the statute of limitations was set to expire and it was confirmed she would face a recall.

“Mario was murdered. He’s dead because he was Brown and breathing and folks need to be held accountable,” Cat Brooke, co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project, said.

The anti police-terror project is in touch with Gonzalez’s family as well.  

Brooks explains this is the first step in a long road for the family.

“This is a charge, this is not a conviction. There is a long road ahead of us,” she said.

According to the city, one of three of the officers no longer works for the department and the remaining two have been placed on administrative leave.

Source: NBC Bay Area

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