SAN FRANCISCO — Family members of a Navy veteran who died after a Northern California police officer pressed a knee to his neck for nearly five minutes during a mental health crisis filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Antioch, its police chief and four police officers, they said Monday.
The lawsuit filed by Angelo Quinto's mother and younger sister seeks unspecified monetary damages and alleges Antioch Police officers used excessive force when restraining him. It names the city, Antioch Police Chief Tammany Brooks and Officers James Perkinson, Arturo Becerra, Daniel Hopwood and Nicholas Shipilov.
An email from The Associated Press seeking comment from city officials was not immediately answered Monday.
Quinto's family called police on Dec. 23 because the 30-year-old was going through a mental health crisis and needed help. A responding officer pressed a knee on Quinto’s neck for nearly five minutes while another officer restrained his legs, according to the complaint. Quinto lost consciousness and was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he died three days later.
“Every day of our lives we live with guilt, no matter how much anyone ... tell(s) us that we did the right thing, that we did everything that we possibly could,” Quinto's sister, Bella Collins, said while wiping away tears.
Quinto's mother, Cassandra Quinto-Collins, was hugging her son and he was calm when officers arrived at their home in Antioch, 45 miles (70 kilometers) east of San Francisco, according to the lawsuit.
Officers Perkinson and Becerra pulled Quinto from his mother's arms and put him on his stomach, in a prone position while he pleaded “please, don’t kill me!” at least twice. They then handcuffed his hands behind his back, crossed his legs behind him and bent them toward his back while he cried out in pain, the complaint alleges.
The officers then took turns placing their legs on the back of Quinto's neck. A few minutes later, Hopwood and Shipilov arrived at the Quinto's home and also helped restrain him even though he was not fighting them, according to the complaint.
After about five minutes of the prone restraint, Quinto appeared to become totally unresponsive, the complaint said.
“It is very much like George Floyd and I hate to use that as an analogy, but the truth of the matter is, it was a lack of appreciation for what was going on,” said John Burris, the family's attorney.
Floyd, a Black man, died May 25, 2020, in Minneapolis after a police officer kept pressing his knee against Floyd’s neck while he was handcuffed and repeating he couldn’t breathe.
A video recorded by Quinto-Collins shows her son listless, with a bloodied face and his hands cuffed behind his back. She said she began recording after seeing her son’s eyes were rolled up in his head.
Antioch police officers were equipped with body-worn cameras just last month and were expected to soon get cameras installed in their patrols.
The officers not only used excessive force but also failed to de-escalate by first talking to Quinto, who was never combative, Burris said.
“My office has been involved in many mental health cases down through the years and in those cases ... a little reassessment, a little de-escalation, reconsideration of where you are and who was involved really could have saved a person’s life,” he said.
The officers also falsely told paramedics that Quinto was on methamphetamine and ransacked the family’s home but found no evidence of drug abuse, according to the complaint.
Quinto, who was born in the Philippines, was honorably discharged from the Navy in 2019 because of a food allergy, according to his family.
He had depression most of his life, but his behavior changed after an apparent assault in early 2020, when he woke up in a hospital not remembering what had happened and with stitches and serious injuries. After that, he began having episodes of paranoia and anxiety, his family said.