police violence

A Man Died After Police Knelt on His Neck for 5 Minutes

Photo: KTVU FOX 2 San Francisco/Youtube

Family members of Angelo Quinto, a 30-year-old Navy veteran from Antioch, California, who suffered from mental-health issues, called the police one night in December 2020, after Quinto showed erratic behavior, and they felt afraid. Three days later, Quinto was dead at a nearby hospital, having never regained consciousness after a violent encounter with the officers who responded to the family’s call.

Instead of providing help, Quinto’s mother and sister say, one officer handcuffed Quinto, while another knelt on his neck for at least five minutes, as Quinto pleaded, “Please don’t kill me”; horrifying video recorded by his mother shows police flipping over an unmoving Quinto after they detained him, with blood smeared on his mouth and pooling on the floor. Quinto was taken to a hospital and died three days later. Months after the horrifying incident, the Antioch Police Department has released little information about what happened to Quinto, nor even an official cause of death.

Quinto’s family believes that he died from asphyxiation at the hands of the police, and have filed a wrongful death claim. Seven months after nationwide protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd, who was also brutally knelt on while being detained, they are demanding accountability from the police department and justice for Quinto. “We trusted them too much during a time of fear and vulnerability and panic,” Quinto’s sister told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I would not call them if this happened again.”

Here’s what we know about the death of Angelo Quinto:

Who was Angelo Quinto?
Quinto was a 30-year-old Navy veteran who, his sister told the San Francisco Chronicle, showed signs of depression for most of his life, though it was never formally diagnosed. His family described him as caring, sweet-natured, and artistic. He graduated from Berkeley High School in 2008 and attended classes at Berkeley City College before joining the Navy, from which he was medically discharged in 2019 due to a food allergy.

Isabella Collins, Quinto’s sister, said her brother’s behavior “changed after an apparent assault early last year, which left Quinto with a black eye, a head wound that required stitches and no memory of what happened. In subsequent months, Quinto seemed anxious and edgy.”

What happened on the night of December 23?
Family members say that on December 23 at around 11 p.m., Quinto, agitated, grabbed his mother and sister and began hugging them tightly around their heads and shoulders, scaring them. “He was trying to keep us close, and it really freaked us out,” Collins told the Chronicle. She called the police because she feared he might hurt her mother. According to a private investigator hired by the family’s attorneys, who interviewed family members, when police arrived, Quinto’s mother was seated on the floor with her son, and she was embracing him.

According to the family, police then flipped Quinto over and pinned him on his stomach, while one officer held his legs and the other knelt on his neck. They say that as police handled Quinto, he pleaded with the officers, “Please don’t kill me.” Quinto’s mother began recording the incident on her cellphone, though not until several minutes later — family members say the officer who knelt on Quinto’s neck did so for five minutes.

In the video, released by the Quinto family attorney, Quinto is seen lying on his stomach, unmoving, as police try to revive him and remove his handcuffs. His mother, recording, can be heard asking, “What happened?” When they flip him over, a smear of blood is visible around his mouth, as is a pool of blood on the floor. Quinto’s sister told the Chronicle that “His eyes were rolled up in his head,” and that he “looked purple.” The footage then shows officers loading Quinto onto a mobile stretcher and transporting him out in the hallway, where they administer chest compressions as his mother asks, “Does he have a pulse?”

How did Angelo Quinto die?
Quinto was transported to a nearby hospital, but never regained consciousness after the altercation with police. He died three days later. The Antioch Police Department has not released an official cause of death nor the names of the officers involved. In January, local press began looking into Quinto’s case and questioned why police did not report the incident to the public when it occurred; at the time, an Antioch police official told the Mercury News that police “didn’t use physical force like a taser, pepper spray, baton, or strikes to [Quinto’s] body,” and that “the officers had already called for an ambulance to place Quinto in a mental health hold when he began experiencing a medical emergency.”

His family believes that Quinto died wrongfully at the hands of police and has filed a legal claim seeking damages of more than $25,000, the precursor to a lawsuit. The claim alleges wrongful death, assault, battery, negligent hiring by the Antioch Police Department, breach of duty by the officers accused of putting Quinto at risk of serious physical injury, and other offenses.

Quinto’s family wants justice for their son and accountability from police.
Quinto died seven months after that of George Floyd, who was killed when Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nine minutes, and whose last brutal moments, captured on video, started months of uprisings against police brutality across the country. Quinto’s family believes his death merits similar outrage and attention. “This was a healthy person before, no physical problems,” John Burris, the family’s attorney said in a press conference last week. “And within moments, his life is gone.” He said the Antioch PD has not released body-worn camera footage of the encounter, and there is some doubt that they were wearing them at all.

“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.”

A Man Died After Police Knelt on His Neck for 5 Minutes