City launches inquiries into death of man in police custody
Three independent investigations are being conducted to probe an Oakland man’s death while in Alameda police custody Monday, April 19.
Mario Arenales Gonzalez, 26, died after a confrontation with three Alameda police officers on the 800 block of Oak Street. Shortly after he died, the Alameda Police Department (APD) asked the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) to conduct an independent investigation, according to a press release. A spokesman for ACSO said they have begun interviewing witnesses and officers and are awaiting the results of Gonzalez’s toxicology and autopsy reports.
The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office (ACDAO) is conducting its own investigation. According to APD, the Alameda County Chief of Police and Sheriff’s Association has a policy that persons who die while in custody or under an officer’s control constitutes a critical incident, which triggered ACDAO’s investigation. The two investigations are being done separately.
The City of Alameda announced Friday, April 23, it has hired Louise Renne to conduct the third independent investigation into Gonzalez’s death. Renne served 16 years as San Francisco’s city attorney and eight as a member of the Board of Supervisors. She also was a state deputy attorney general for 11 years.
Renne’s hiring comes after Councilmember Malia Vella called for the city to perform a true independent investigation.
“We also need to move forward with a meaningful investigation performed not by law enforcement but by an independent investigator,” Vella stated on Twitter.
Vella also called for an emergency City Council meeting and for new California Attorney General Rob Bonta to get involved.
“I call on AG Bonta to take over the criminal investigation,” stated Vella. “This is the type of case that requires the Attorney General, not the DA.”
Vella also said the body-worn camera footage from the three officers at the scene should be made public. APD said they will not release the footage now because that may compromise ACSO and ACDAO’s investigations.
“Because outside agencies are handling this investigation, all involved parties will be interviewed before the video is made public to ensure the integrity of the investigations,” stated APD in a press release. “We understand the community’s frustration and are doing everything possible to provide this information to the family first and then the public as quickly as possible.”
Gonzalez’s family has seen the body-worn camera footage. In a statement reported by KTVU Tuesday, April 27, Gonzalez’s brother, Gerardo Gonzalez, denounced the officers’ actions after seeing the video.
“The medical emergency [that police described] was because they were on his back while he was lying on the ground. It was brought by the officers on top of his head,” said Gerardo.
Officers initially said Gonzalez suffered a medical emergency. Gerardo said his brother never kicked or threatened the officers.
On Gonzalez’s Gofundme page, his family said APD refused to provide any information on his death and denied them access to see his body to conduct their own investigation.
Gonzales leaves behind a four-year-old son. The family has retained Haddad & Sherwin, LLP for counsel. The three officers have not been identified.