Three police officers have been charged in the death of a Northern California man who was pinned facedown on the ground for more than five minutes.

The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office announced involuntary manslaughter charges against the officers Thursday, the eve of the third anniversary of Mario Gonzalez’s death.

The announcement comes two years after the DA’s predecessor, Nancy O’Malley, concluded that the evidence did not justify charges against the Alameda police officers Eric McKinley, James Fisher and Cameron Leahy.

An initial autopsy attributed the death to the “toxic effects of methamphetamine” and “other significant conditions,” including “physiological stress of altercation and restraint, morbid obesity and alcoholism,” the DA’s office said in a statement Thursday.

O’Malley in March 2022 found “the officers’ decision to detain and arrest Mr. Gonzalez, and their subsequent use of force was objectively reasonable considering the agency policies, the totality of the circumstances, and the officers’ stated rationale.”

Last year, the current DA’s new public accountability unit reopened the case and a second autopsy concluded Gonzalez’s death was “a result of restraint asphyxiation,” according to the statement.

The charges were filed at the end of an “extensive review” of the case, the office of the current DA, Pamela Price, said.

One of the three officers involved is no longer employed by the department, and the other two have been placed on administrative leave, the city of Alameda said in a statement.

Alison Berry Wilkinson, an attorney for the three officers, blasted the charges.

“There is no new evidence. This is a blatantly political prosecution,” she said in a statement to NBC Bay Area.

The police department, the police union and attorneys for Gonzalez’s family were not immediately available for comment Friday.

Gonzalez’s death on April 19, 2021, drew comparisons to that of George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis police custody May 25, 2020.

Gonzalez died one day before Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, was convicted of murdering Floyd by holding him to the pavement with his knee for 9 minutes, 29 seconds.

Gonzalez was 26 years old.

Police released body-camera video that shows officers pinning him to the ground.

Alameda Police Department officers attempt to take Mario Gonzalez into custody in Alameda, Calif., on April 19, 2021. Alameda Police Department via AP file

The nearly hourlong video from two officers’ body cameras shows police talking to Gonzalez in a park after receiving 911 calls that he appeared to be disoriented or drunk. Gonzalez seems dazed and struggles to answer questions. When he doesn’t produce any identification, the officers try to force his hands behind his back to handcuff him but he resists and they take him to the ground.

In December, the city reached two settlement agreements with Gonzalez’s family. One would pay $11 million to his estate and a second would pay $350,000 to his mother. 

“The separate settlement agreements with the estate of Mr. Gonzalez and Mr. Gonzalez’s mother, both of which are in the process of being finalized, are expected to provide that payment shall fully and forever discharge and release all claims and causes of action,” the city said in a statement at the time.

It was not immediately clear Friday if the agreements were finalized and how the charges will impact them. 


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