Family denounces police custody death of man in California

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Jerry Gonzalez, right, the youngest brother of Mario Gonzalez, speaks about his brother's death in Oakland, Calif. on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. Police in Alameda, California, are under fire over the death of a Hispanic man who was pinned to the ground face down for more than five minutes on the same day a jury in Minneapolis began deliberating in the George Floyd case. (AP Photo/Josh Edelson)

OAKLAND, Calif. – The family of an unarmed 26-year-old San Francisco Bay Area man is struggling to understand how a minor confrontation with police led to his death on the same day a jury in Minneapolis began considering similar circumstances in the George Floyd case.

Officers in Alameda, California, responded to a park on April 19 to check reports that Mario Gonzalez was acting strangely and appeared to be breaking security tags off of alcohol bottles that he had in two drugstore baskets.

Gonzalez died after three officers and a civilian parking enforcement employee pinned him face down on the ground for more than five minutes, according to body camera video made public this week by police amid three separate investigations. An attorney for the officers said they did nothing wrong.

Police said Gonzalez had a medical emergency while in an altercation with officers.

But his brother, Jerry Gonzalez, told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday that the video “presented a story that was really different.

"The medical emergency that they’re talking about was induced by three officers on his back,” he said.

The brother added that Gonzalez liked to get away from their neighborhood in east Oakland — where gang shootings, robberies and murders are common — and go to nearby Alameda, a city on an island with beautiful homes, tree-lined streets and many parks.

Gonzalez stopped breathing in a park at the end of a cul-de-sac of well-kept homes with manicured gardens.