A Filipino American family in Antioch, California has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city arguing that their 30-year-old son died after a police officer knelt on his neck for almost five minutes.
Angelo Quinto, a Navy veteran who was born in the Philippines, was suffering a mental health crisis on the night of December 23, 2020, prompting his sister to call 911 for help.
But what transpired is renewing questions about whether police are equipped to respond to such episodes.
“I was just hoping they could deescalate the situation,” Isabella Collins, Quinto’s younger sister, said during a press conference on Thursday, February 19.
His family reported that his behavior changed after sustaining a head injury earlier last year, which led to him experiencing bouts of paranoia and anxiety.
When police arrived at the house, Quinto was holding onto his mother, Cassandra Quinto-Collins, and reportedly would not let go.
A cellphone video shot by Quinto-Collins — presented by the family’s attorney on Thursday — shows him unresponsive on the floor after an officer pinned and subdued him with a knee to the back of his neck for nearly five minutes, while another officer held him by the legs.
The former sailor repeated, “Please don’t kill me,” as he lost consciousness. The video then shows a handcuffed Quinto turned onto his back with blood streaming out of his mouth.
“The most tragic part of this is the ‘George Floyd hold,’” said John Burris, a civil rights attorney representing the family. “On the way down he said, ‘Please don’t kill me’ and they muttered some words like ‘We’re not going to kill you,’ but in moments they had.”
Quinto never regained consciousness and was taken by an ambulance. He died at Sutter Delta Medical Center three days later.
The family has filed a wrongful death claim against the Antioch Police Department and is seeking answers after minimal information has been released.
The police department has not given an official cause of death and has not revealed the officers’ names and whether they were wearing body cameras at the scene.
Supporters and family rallied on Thursday for more humane treatment of people in mental distress, as well as for a ban on the controversial chokehold.
“This is wrongful death in the sense that their conduct caused the death of this person. This was a healthy person before, and now his life is gone,” said Burris.
Family members remembered Quinto for his love of video games, fishing and scuba diving. He was medically discharged from duty in 2019 because of a food allergy, the family told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Quinto’s sister said she has remorse about calling the police and that she hopes no one has to regret “doing what they think is the right
With Quinto gone, they are seeking justice and changes to the police department, such as the end of the knee-to-neck restraint used on Quinto as well as in other high-profile cases, such as in the death of George Floyd last year.
“I want to bring him back, but if we can’t do that, we want justice in any way we can get it,” Collins said. “We want a new number to call, someone who can help us with mental health crises and other related domestic incidents.”
They also are calling for a mental health crisis response team that can respond to similar situations, and body cameras and dash cameras for police officers in the department.
The police department has not provided any new information regarding the case, as of press time. Meanwhile, the Contra Costa District Attorney is conducting an automatic and procedural investigation.