Alameda Police Officers Charged with Involuntary Manslaughter in Mario Gonzalez Case

Alameda, California is facing a significant development nearly three years after the death of 26-year-old Mario Gonzalez while in police custody. The Alameda County District Attorney’s Office has recently announced that three Alameda police officers, Eric McKinley, James Fisher, and Cameron Leahy, are now facing involuntary manslaughter charges in relation to Gonzalez’s passing.

This announcement comes following the decision by District Attorney Pamela Price to reopen Gonzalez’s case earlier this year. Price’s actions have reversed the previous decision made by Nancy O’Malley, who had cleared the officers of any criminal wrongdoing in a final report signed two years ago. In the report, it was stated that the officers’ decisions and use of force on Gonzalez were deemed reasonable based on agency policies, circumstances, and their rationale.

Despite Price not confirming whether new evidence influenced the decision, she made it clear that she was distanced from the case and did not participate in making the ultimate decision. The public accountability unit independent assessment led to the current charges being brought against the officers involved.

The incident leading to Gonzalez’s death occurred on April 19, 2021, when Alameda police responded to a call regarding a disorderly person in a public park. Body camera footage showed officers holding Gonzalez face down on the ground for over six minutes. Initially, the Alameda County Coroner’s autopsy attributed Gonzalez’s death to methamphetamine toxicity, along with other related conditions. However, a second autopsy later determined that asphyxiation was the cause of his death.

Following these developments, local activists, such as Cat Brooks, the Executive Director of the Anti Police-Terror Project, expressed concerns that justice might not be fully served even with the charges brought against the officers. Despite the challenging circumstances of convicting police officers, the upcoming trial for the Alameda police officers could provide an opportunity to seek accountability for Gonzalez’s untimely death.

One of the three officers involved is no longer employed by the city of Alameda, while the other two have been placed on administrative leave pending further legal proceedings. If convicted, these officers could face up to four years in state prison, with their court appearance expected to take place in May. The community and stakeholders will closely watch the developments in this case as it moves through the judicial process.