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Family says man in mental health crisis died after police knelt on his neck for nearly 5 minutes

"I'm always going to regret calling the police and hope no one has to regret doing what they think is the right thing," the 30-year-old's sister said.

Family says man in mental health crisis died after police knelt on his neck for nearly 5 minutes
Cover Image Source: Law Offices of John L. Burris

Trigger warning: This article contains graphic visuals of police brutality that may disturb readers.

The family of a Northern California man has filed a wrongful death claim against the City of Antioch after the 30-year-old died days after cops allegedly kneeled on the back of his neck for nearly five minutes. According to CNN, Angelo Quinto's sister Isabella Collins called police to their Antioch, California, home on December 23 after he began acting erratically. Quinto had been "suffering from anxiety, depression, and paranoia for the previous few months," after suffering a head injury in an apparent assault last year, lawyers for his family said in the wrongful death claim filed on February 18.

Image Source: Law Offices of John L. Burris

When two officers from the Antioch Police Department arrived at the residence after 11 p.m, they found Quinto's mother holding him to her chest with her hands clasped around his back, reports The Washington Post. She had been embracing him for a few minutes, and "he had already started to calm down," the claim states. In a press conference last week, family lawyer John L. Burris said that the cops made no attempt to understand the situation and instead grabbed Quinto from his mother's arms immediately upon arrival. They flipped him over, pinned him on his stomach, and allegedly subdued him with a knee to the back of his neck. 

Image Source: Law Offices of John L. Burris

Quinto's mother, Cassandra Quinto-Collins said she watched in horror as one of the responding officers knelt on her son's neck for nearly five minutes while the officer restrained him. Speaking to KTVU, she said that her son pleaded for his life to the cops. "He said 'Please don't kill me. Please don't kill me,'" she said. Although Quinto-Collins recorded part of the incident on her cellphone, she did not capture the initial encounter with police, including the officer allegedly kneeling on Quinto's neck. The video starts just as the police officers realize Quinto is unresponsive and hurriedly remove his handcuffs. As they roll him into a mobile stretcher and begin chest compressions in the hallway, Quinto-Collins is heard pleading for information. "Does he have a pulse?" she asks. "What is happening?"

Image Source: Law Offices of John L. Burris

The Navy veteran lost consciousness and was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead three days later on December 26, family attorneys say in the claim. "I was there. I was watching them. I trusted them. I thought they know what they're doing," Quinto-Collins said. In the nearly two months since Quinto's death, police have not issued a press release on the incident. "These Antioch police officers had already handcuffed Angelo but did not stop their assault on the young man and inexplicably began using the 'George Floyd' technique of placing a knee on the back and side of his neck, ignoring Mr. Quinto pleas of 'please don't kill me,'" Burris said in the press conference.

Image Source: Law Offices of John L. Burris

"They put... the knee on the back of his neck and pressed down for about five minutes and snuffed his life out," he added. Lt. John Fortner, an Antioch police spokesperson, told the San Jose Mercury News last month that although police had handcuffed Quinto, they didn't use any physical force. His family claims this is untrue. "This was a healthy person before, no physical problems," said Burris, "and within moments, his life is gone." The Contra Costa County Sheriff Coroner's office said Monday that Quinto's cause of death is still pending and that his death is under investigation by the Contra Costa County District Attorney's office.



 

Collins said she called the police out of fear that Quinto would hurt their mother and in the hope that they would help de-escalate the situation. "I don't think I will ever not feel bad. If it was the right thing to do, it wouldn't have killed my brother," she said. "I'm always going to regret calling the police and hope no one has to regret doing what they think is the right thing." Burris claimed that police have refused to release any information on the case to family members or their attorneys and that the officers involved in the incident were not wearing body cameras. Quinto’s family now calls for Antioch police to retrain its officers to deal with mental health crises.



 

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