Civil rights group seeks Justice Division investigation of Mario Gonzalez’s dying in police custody


Alameda police attempt to resuscitate Oakland’s Mario Gonzalez after police pegged him to the ground. April 19, 2021

The country’s oldest Latin American civil rights organization has sent a letter to US Attorney General Merrick Garland asking the FBI to investigate the police’s death of Mario Gonzalez.

On Friday, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) published a press release with an extract from their letter. They expect the investigation by local law enforcement, the City of Alameda and the Alameda District Attorney to focus on the use of force by the police.

LULAC wants the US Department of Justice to investigate whether Gonzalez’s civil rights have been violated.

Civil rights group seeks Justice Department investigation into Mario Gonzalez’s death in police custody

LULAC, the country’s oldest Latin American civil rights organization, has sent a letter to US Attorney General Merrick Garland asking the FBI to investigate Mario Gonzalez’s death by police.

Gonzalez, 26, died in an Alameda park on April 19 when police responded to calls from a man allegedly under the influence and loitering. The police initially said he was a “possible” suspect in a theft.

The police-worn body camera footage of the incident was released this week. It has sparked criticism of the police department and the anger of Gonzalez’s family members as well as community activists.

“Unfortunately, the black and Hispanic communities are similarly ill-treated by our law enforcement agencies. We expect all law enforcement-initiated deaths of unarmed persons through investigation and prevention to be a priority of our government,” the LULAC letter said.

The body cam video shows how quickly the situation developed in just 20 minutes. The officers and Gonzalez are initially warm enough to each other, but Gonzalez, looking disoriented or drunk, was soon put face down on the floor and the police knelt on his back and shoulder for nearly five minutes at times. The police try to arrest him, but he eventually stops responding while the police peg him down.

The reason for the detention has come under fire.

Supporter: Why was Mario Gonzalez arrested by the Alameda police in the first place?

“We cannot allow this dangerous trend to continue in our country. Law enforcement agencies need to understand that they are here to ensure public safety and not to pose a lethal threat to civilians, especially paint communities. Police report that they received a phone call on Gonzalez “Talk to Yourself” in a public park, but the same caller said Gonzalez had not committed a crime, “said Yvonne Gonzalez-Duncan, LULAC state director in California.

“The officers who arrived on site had a few minutes to see Gonzalez having some sort of mental episode, but at no point did he see aggressive steps toward them,” added Gonzalez-Duncan.

She said officials failed to de-escalate the situation and the fight with officials quickly got out of hand.

A lawyer for the officials involved told the KTVU this week that Gonzalez defied officials and never intended to bring him to the ground, arguing that it was Gonzalez’s own dynamic that brought everyone down. The officers were put on paid administrative leave.

Rallies were held in support of Gonzalez and his family. He was the father of a 4 year old and the only caretaker of his 22 year old brother with autism.

“A police card is not a license to violate a person’s civil rights or a shield against justice when those rights are violated,” said Gonzalez-Duncan.

LULAC said they will wait a reasonable amount of time to see if the proper process begins but sternly said they will not wait indefinitely.

Read LULAC’s letter to US Attorney General Merrick Garland:

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