Mario Gonzalez’s family is still grieving without answers more than six months after the young Latino father died when police in Alameda, California, kneeled on his back for nearly five minutes.
“We are still figuring out how to fill the hole left in our family when they took Mario from us,” said his mother, Edith Arenales, in a statement from the family’s lawyers. “We are struggling with these daily routines while carrying the burden of grief.”
On Tuesday, the six-month anniversary of Gonzalez’s death by police, family members and other loved ones gathered with candles for a vigil at the Alameda park where Mario died at age 26.
The family has not gotten any updates from officials in months, according to the family’s attorney. They are still waiting on the autopsy to be released by the coroner’s office.
The family is demanding that the officers involved — James Fisher, Cameron Leahy and Eric McKinley — be fired and charged.
The three officers remain on paid administrative leave, according to the city of Alameda. A spokesperson told HuffPost that the city “does not have any substantive update on the investigations.”
“These officers should have been fired the moment that the footage was revealed showing them suffocating Mario to death,” Gerardo Gonzalez, his brother, said in a statement from the family’s attorney. “Charge all those involved so no one else has to lose their loved one.”
In April, police called the incident a “scuffle” followed by a “medical emergency.” But body camera footage released after an outcry from Gonzalez’s family showed officers approaching Gonzalez, alone in a park with some bottles of alcohol, and Gonzalez calmly speaking with officers for nearly nine minutes. Then officers can be seen putting Gonzalez’s hands behind his back and pinning him facedown. At least one officer kneeled on his back for nearly five minutes until Gonzalez became unresponsive.
Police said Gonzalez died later at the hospital, but the video shows Gonzalez stopped breathing on site and one officer declaring “no pulse” as officers began CPR.
With police on top of him, Gonzalez can be heard groaning under the officers’ weight while continuing to respond to questions. “Please don’t do it,” Gonzalez says at one point, and then, “I’m sorry,” followed by screams and groans. An officer says, “I forgive you.”
The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office and the district attorney’s office, which were conducting investigations into the incident, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The family also wants the California Department of Justice to investigate the police department’s handling of the case. The state DOJ told HuffPost that it is their “understanding” that the case is being “handled at the local level.”