Antioch, CA — The family of a 30-year-old US Naval veteran recently filed a lawsuit after police showed up to a call for mental health help and their beloved son and brother died shortly after. The family claims, and has video evidence they say backs up these claims, that cops handcuffed Angelo Quinto, before kneeling on his neck, killing him.
According to his family, Quinto had been slipping in and out of episodes of paranoia after he sustained a head injury. On December 23, Quinto was in the midst of a crisis and his family felt they had no other option but to call 911 for help — a choice they undoubtedly regret making today.
On that December day, Quinto reportedly became agitated and scared that his mother and sister would leave him. Worried for his health and what he might do, Qunito’s sister called police.
“He was asking us what’s happening, what’s going on?” said Quinto’s sister Bella Collins. “We’ve experienced this before but we didn’t associate it with mental health.”
According to the family, by the time police arrived, Quinto had calmed down, but his mother, Cassandra Quinto-Collins was still holding him tightly on the ground.
“They asked me if my mom was restraining my brother or if he was restraining her,” said Bella.
According to an attorney for the family, that’s when police escalated force and began manhandling Quinto.
“He was snatched from his mother’s arms, thrown to the ground. Police jumped on him and literally put a George Floyd-tight hold on the back of his neck,” the family’s attorney John Burris said.
“One officer was holding his legs and the other officer had his knee or lower leg here,” Cassandra told KTVU.
The incident escalated as Quinto squirmed under the weight of the officers before going into full panic mode, according to the family. The struggle reportedly last several minutes as one officer held Quinto’s handcuffs and another knelt on his neck for at least five minutes, according to the family.
“He said, ‘Please don’t kill me. Please don’t kill me,’” Cassandra told KTVU. “I was there. I was watching them. I trusted them. I thought they know what they’re doing.”
Sadly, however, according to Cassandra and Bella, police did not know what they were doing and their actions may have led to Quinto’s death. Now, Bella feels the guilt for making that call.
As the video below shows, when they flip Quinto over, a smear of blood is visible around his mouth, as is a pool of blood on the floor. Quinto’s sister told the SF Chronicle that “His eyes were rolled up in his head,” and that he “looked purple.”
“His biggest fear was death and his second biggest fear was the police,” Bella told NBC Bay Area. “That’s where my guilt comes from.”
According to police, however, they did not use any physical force and while they were handcuffing him, Quinto went into a medical emergency. As the Mercury News reported in January.
Antioch police Lt. John Fortner said the call came from a member of Quinto’s family. He said while officers handcuffed Quinto, they didn’t use physical force like a taser, pepper spray, baton, or strikes to his body. The officers had already called for an ambulance to place Quinto in a mental health hold when he began experiencing a medical emergency.
“They had the ambulance step up their response,” Fortner said. “(The ambulance) transported him to hospital, they stabilized him for three days and he unfortunately passed away.”
The investigation is still underway and the department has said that the cause of death has yet to be determined — despite two months having gone by. Fortner said last week that the autopsy is still pending.
But for Quinto’s family, who watched the life fall fade from his eyes, things could not be clearer.
“There are a lot of issues wrong here,” Burris said. “The technique applied by officers. The failure to de-escalate. The jumping on his back, the putting into his neck by a knee…Given what we know, which is that we had a healthy young man in his mother’s arms. The police grabbed him. They themselves, their conduct, snuffed the life out of him. We see that not only as a violation of his civil rights but it’s a violation of humanity, frankly.”
“I’m always going to regret calling the police and hope no one has to regret doing what they think is the right thing,” Bella said.
Unfortunately, police responding to calls for mental health help, often times ends in the death of the person in need. This is why cities across the country are moving away from sending cops, and sending qualified experts instead. As we reported last week, these experts are resolving the situations every single time without violence and without arrests.