Coroner Report Released
Coroner Report Released
The death of Mario Arenales Gonzalez was ruled a homicide by the Alameda County Coroner’s Bureau’s (ACCB) autopsy report. However, the report also states “the toxic effects of methamphetamine” was the leading cause in Gonzalez’s death.
The report, conducted by ACCB’s Chief Forensic Pathologist Vivian Snyder, was released Friday, Dec. 10. The toxicology report detected .9 milligrams of meth per liter in his system along with a small amount of amphetamine.
“It is apparent Mr. Gonzalez experienced cardiopulmonary arrest because of multiple factors,” Snyder wrote in the report. “Methamphetamine detected in his blood combined with his enlarged and dilated heart could have together resulted in a fatal cardiac arrhythmia.”
The other contributing factors include physiologic stress from the altercation and restraint by Alameda police officers, along with Gonzalez’s morbid obesity and alcoholism. The report included details of Gonzalez’s health status. Gonzalez, whose obesity contributed to his enlarged and dilated heart, while his history with alcoholism caused an enlarged liver that had severe fatty change.
“During the interaction with law enforcement agents, he was face-down on the ground (prone) with his hands handcuffed behind his back, and at times the officers were applying pressure to his torso and legs with at least some of the weight of their bodies. The stress of the altercation and restraint combined with prone positioning in the setting of morbid obesity and recent use of methamphetamine placed further strain on Mr. Gonzalez Arenales’ heart,” according to the report.
Alameda Police Chief Nishant Joshi expressed his condolences to the Gonzalez family after the release of the coroner’s report.
“Anytime someone loses their life, it is a tragedy. I know they are already suffering the severe trauma of losing a loved one. The new information being released adds to that pain,” wrote Joshi in a press release.
Joshi also says the department will be transparent with the other investigations and the Alameda community.
“Because there was a physical altercation, the coroner further classified Mr. Gonzalez’s manner of death as homicide,” wrote Joshi. “I’m committed to full transparency and accountability into the tragic death of Mr. Gonzalez, and as soon as more information is available, we will continue to share it.”
The coroner’s report was one of three investigations that was announced looking into the death of Gonzalez. Alameda city officials hired San Francisco attorney Louise Renne, of Renne Public Law Group, to conduct an independent investigation into the incident. The Alameda County District Attorney’s (DA) office is evaluating the case and considering whether to bring charges against the three officers. Both investigations are still ongoing.
The Bureau’s report offered a detailed description of the actions that led to Gonzalez’s death and medical personnel’s effort to save his life. Gonzalez, whose legal name is Mario Gonzalez Arenales, died after an altercation with Alameda police officers on April 19 (“Suspect Dies in Police Custody” April 20). On the fateful morning Alameda Police Department (APD) officers were dispatched to the 800 block of Oak Street after receiving two calls from concerned residents about a man, Gonzalez, in someone’s front yard possibly having a “psychiatric episode.” As officers tried to question Gonzalez, they noticed he was intoxicated and incoherent. Gonzalez was in possession of two shopping hand baskets containing alcohol containers. The two initial officers decided to try to detain Gonzalez. As they attempted to place him in handcuffs, Gonzalez resisted. They took him to the ground and a parking enforcement officer, Charlie Clemmens, appeared and helped the officers by holding down one of Gonzalez’s legs. A third officer approached to help apprehend Gonzalez. During the altercation Gonzalez became unresponsive.
They attempted to give him CPR. They confirmed he was pulseless. Paramedics then arrived and they tried to perform CPR and transported him to Alameda Hospital.
“Upon arrival to the hospital, [Gonzalez] was in cardiac arrest, had no pulse, and was not breathing,” according to the report. “Advanced cardiac life support continued in the Emergency Room for a total of 40 minutes of CPR. There was never any improvement in cardiac rhythm. ”
The autopsy also noted that Gonzalez had more than 20 cuts and bruises.
The three responding officers, James Fisher, Cameron Leahy and Eric McKinely, along with Clemmens, were placed on paid administrative leave. The three officers are being represented by attorney Alison Berry Wilkinson.
Attorney Julia Sherwin of the Oakland law firm, Haddad & Sherwin LLP, filed claims against the city and APD on behalf of the Gonzalez family on May 20 (“Claim Filed” June 3). Gonzalez’s four-year-old son, Mario Luciano Gonzalez-Cortez; his son’s mother, Andrea Cortez; his mother, Edith; and his brothers, Efrain and Gerado; are all named as claimants on the petition. Each person brought a claim against the city individually, according to the claim.
The claim was the first step in proceeding with a lawsuit. Sherwin told NPR that she is preparing a federal civil rights lawsuit.
“Mario would not have died were it not for being restrained in a prone position, with multiple officers on his back, for over five minutes,” said Sherwin in an NPR report.
Gonzalez’s death made national headlines for its resemblance to the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers in 2020. Several peaceful protests were held in Alameda in the weeks after Gonzalez’s death.
Since Gonzalez’s death, interim Alameda Police Chief Randy Fenn was replaced by Joshi, and the city has started a pilot program that intends to change procedures when responding to calls for service, involving individuals experiencing a mental health crisis.
There is no timetable for the completion of the city’s independent investigation.