The Alameda police officers implicated in the April 2021 death of Mario Arenales Gonzalez will not face criminal charges, after the Alameda County District Attorney's Office announced a decision Thursday.
Alameda County DA Nancy O'Malley, who is not seeking reelection after her current term is up this year, has not prosecuted many law enforcement officers during her tenure. And on Thursday her office released a 38-page report, dated March 30, that finds the three officers who detained Gonzalez and held him on the ground are "not criminally liable," and "the evidence does not justify criminal charges."
Gonzalez's death at the age of 26 was similar to that of George Floyd in that he was being held prone on the ground by officers, but in the case of Gonzalez, he only struggled for a short time before becoming unresponsive.
Debate was sparked immediately around the Bay Area about the necessity of detaining Gonzalez at all. A couple of Alameda residents had made calls to the police department's non-emergency number about Gonzalez's presence in a small city park, and officers found him just standing there, seeming intoxicated and not particularly lucid, but not acting violently or erratically.
A December forensic pathology report found that Gonzalez died of cardiac arrest and stopped breathing, and ruled that his death was a homicide — however methamphetamine use, alcohol, and obesity were contributing factors in the death.
The three officers, James Fisher, Cameron Leahy, and Eric McKinley, remain on paid administrative leave pending the conclusion of a city-commissioned investigation, the city says.
The DA's report describes how officers spent "two minutes and thirty-eight seconds... [attempting] to place handcuffs on Mr. Gonzalez while he was standing." But during this time, the report says, Gonzalez "continued to physically resist, moving the officers with him as he resisted." It was only after this struggled that officers took Gonzalez to the ground, where he continued to resist being handcuffed, and once handcuffed, officers attempted to stop him from struggling, attempting to restrain his torso and legs.
Per the report, "The officers attempted to limit the amount of body weight and pressure placed on Mr. Gonzalez's neck and back area." But after three minutes and thirty-nine seconds of this struggle in handcuffs, Gonzalez became unresponsive and appeared to stop breathing.
Much of this struggle was captured on body-worn camera footage which was posted publicly in the days after Gonzalez's death. The report goes through the entire altercation moment by moment, and details the many times that officers asked Gonzalez to stop resisting — along with Gonzalez's mostly non-sensical responses.
"A prosecutorial decision must rest squarely on the ability to establish the elements of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt," O'Malley's report states. And in this case, those elements are not there, and the reports says, "We are closing our file and will take no further action in this matter."