The Alameda police have immobilized Mario Gonzalez. His death was ruled a homicide but also linked to health and drug use

Death of Mario Gonzalez Arenales, a 26-year-old man whose fatal meeting with Alameda police in April became a flashpoint in a national debate, results from “toxic effects of methamphetamine”, combined with “stress physiological “contention. by officers and other underlying conditions, according to the Alameda County coroner.

In an autopsy report released Friday, Chief Medical Examiner Vivian Snyder called Gonzalez’s death a homicide, while citing other factors including methamphetamine abuse, alcoholism and morbid obesity.

The focus on Gonzalez’s drug history infuriated a lawyer representing the late son of the man, who accused the coroner of trying to shield police from scrutiny.

Police Chief Nishant Joshi offered his condolences to Gonzalez’s family in a statement. “I know they are already suffering from the severe trauma of losing a loved one,” Joshi said. “The new information released adds to this pain.”

Officers confronted Gonzalez – whose legal name, in the report, is Mario Gonzalez Arenales – in a small park on the morning of April 19, after receiving two calls, the first from a neighborhood resident who said a man mumbled to himself outside the forehead. door of his house. The second caller testified that Gonzalez was lingering in Scout Park at the corner of Oak and Powell streets with what the appellant suspected were stolen liquor bottles.

Alameda officer Eric McKinley spoke to Gonzalez for nine minutes before he and two other officers attempted to stop him, with the help of a civilian parking attendant. Body camera footage shows police restraining Gonzalez for five minutes, at which time he went limp.

Paramedics rushed him to Alameda hospital, where he arrived in cardiac arrest, without breathing or a pulse, according to the report. Doctors declared Gonzalez dead at 11:45 a.m., according to the autopsy report.

In their first public statements, Alameda police described Gonzalez’s death as a “medical emergency.” Grieving family members have called on George Floyd, the Minneapolis man whose murder by a former police officer sparked a nationwide toll on police violence against people of color. Four days after the incident, city officials hired Louise Renne of the Renne Public Law Group in San Francisco to launch an independent investigation.

In addition, the police department is conducting an internal investigation into the altercation and the district attorney is reviewing the case to determine whether criminal charges should be laid.

Family members said Gonzalez had no known health issues and have previously claimed he did not die of medical complications.

Michael Haddad, a lawyer representing Gonzalez and his young son, who is also called Mario, said he “did not need an autopsy” to infer that Gonzalez’s death was homicide or that detention policewoman was a factor. But he questioned the coroner’s conclusion that methamphetamine was the main cause of Gonzalez’s death.

Toxicology exams found methamphetamine and amphetamines in Gonzalez’s body, the effects of which were made worse by the stress of his altercation with the police, according to the autopsy report. During the encounter, Gonzalez remained in a supine position with pressure applied to his posterior torso and legs, according to the report.

The examiners also detected ethanol in Gonzalez’s system and found signs of alcoholism and obesity, including an enlarged and dilated heart and an enlarged liver with severe steatosis. He also had multiple rib fractures and a laceration in his liver, which are the injuries doctors sometimes suffer when doctors try to resuscitate them with CPR. Her face had minor scratches.

“I’m afraid the sheriff-coroner is trying to protect the police from Alameda,” Haddad said, arguing that methamphetamine was “a false cause of death” because the amount in Gonzalez’s system – 907 nanograms per milliliter of blood – was “far too low to cause someone’s sudden death.”

Haddad said his company hired a doctor to perform a second autopsy, the results of which have yet to be finalized.

A spokesperson for the sheriff, Lt. Ray Kelly, said the office was sticking to the local report.

“A tremendous amount of work has gone into this inquest by our pathologist and the coroner’s investigation team,” Kelly said. “It’s peer reviewed. We believe that this is a precise and very comprehensive conclusion on the death of Mario Gonzalez. “

For Alison Berry Wilkinson, the lawyer representing the three officers and the civilian parking worker, the report appeared to confirm that her clients were justified in detaining and arresting Gonzalez.

“He was heavily intoxicated in a public place, in a way that he was unable to take care of himself,” said Berry Wilkinson. “He fought the officers, and they used reasonable techniques. In our opinion, this is an unintended and unexpected death due to the use of… appropriate training and accepted techniques in the law enforcement industry. “

The three police officers and the civilian employee are on administrative leave.

“Based on all of the information available, including the results of the investigation, autopsy and laboratory, it is evident that Mr. Gonzalez Arenales suffered cardiopulmonary arrest due to several factors,” said the report.

“The methamphetamine detected in his blood combined with his enlarged and dilated heart could have resulted in a fatal cardiac arrhythmia,” the report continues.

“During the interaction with law enforcement officers, he was face down (lying on his stomach), his hands cuffed behind his back, and sometimes the officers applied pressure to his chest and legs with at least part of their body weight. The stress of the altercation and restraint, combined with lying on his stomach amid morbid obesity and the recent use of methamphetamine, put further strain on Mr. Gonzalez Arenales’ heart.

“Therefore,” the report concludes, “the cause of death is the toxic effects of methamphetamine, physiological stress from altercation and restraint, morbid obesity and alcoholism contributing to the dying process.”

Rachel Swan is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @rachelswan

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