THE death of a Filipino American man in police custody has been ruled an accident, according to the Contra Costa County Coroner’s Office.
An inquest jury on Friday, August 20 said that Angelo Quinto, a 30-year-old Navy veteran, reportedly succumbed to “excited delirium” and prescription drugs during the physical altercation with officers.
Quinto was suffering a mental health crisis on December 23, 2020 when his younger sister called 911 for help, as previously reported by the Asian Journal.
His family had alleged that a responding officer pinned and subdued Quinto with a knee to the back of his neck for nearly five minutes, while another officer held him by the legs. Quinto reportedly never regained consciousness and was taken by an ambulance. He died at Sutter Delta Medical Center three days later on December 26.
Quinto’s family members, including 18-year-old sister Bella Quinto Collins and mother Cassandra, who were present during the incident were not asked to give testimonies.
During the inquest hearing, police officers testified that one officer pinned Quinto down by his shoulder blades, despite his family’s previous accounts and their independent medical examinations that found the 30-year-old died due to restraint asphyxiation.
According to the coroner’s office, his death was blamed on “excited delirium,” as blood tests revealed Quinto had caffeine and tobacco in his system along with the prescription drugs Levetiracetam, an anti-seizure drug, and Modafinil, an anti-narcolepsy brain stimulant, KTVU reported.
“That’s a joke and it was so much of a joke that I laughed and walked out,” said Ben Nisenbaum, an attorney for the Quinto family.
The medical diagnosis is controversial, with the American Medical Association denouncing it in June and saying it is commonly used to justify excessive force by officers, according to CBS San Francisco.
Likewise, civil rights attorney John Burris blasted the diagnosis, saying there was “no factual basis” to it.
“Excited delirium really was bogus in my point of view. There’s no factual basis to support that,” he said.
In addition, Burris called the diagnosis “junk science.”
“It’s junk science. And that’s what’s so shocking about it that even the doctor recognizes it’s junk science but then he uses it as the basis to say it’s the cause of death here,” he said.
Quinto’s family, for their part, maintained that they’re pushing through with the civil case.
“We will not stop fighting for what we believe in and what my brother deserved, which is his life,” said Quinto’s sister, Bella Quinto-Collins.
Early this month, the Quinto family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Antioch and its police department.
The suit named the city as well as Antioch Police Chief Tammany Brooks, and Officers James Perkinson, Arturo Becerra, Daniel Hopwood and Nicholas Shipilov.
With Friday’s findings serving as the official cause of death, Contra Costa County district attorney’s office is still investigating Quinto’s death. (Ritchel Mendiola/AJPress)