Excited Delirium? Attorneys Incredulous at Inquest Findings of Debunked Cause of Death in Antioch Case

Quinto’s sister breaks down during press conference – Photo provided by John Burris Law Office

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Antioch, CA – It may have been a scene reminiscent of George Floyd, but unless the California AG or Contra Costa DA step into this, the police may well get away with it after the coroner ruled accidental death in the death of 30-year-old Angelo Quinto, a Filipino male with a recent history of mental impairment.

Quinto was grabbed from his mother’s arms and thrown to the floor in his home by Antioch police officers. After that, one officer handcuffed and placed his knee on the back of his neck, and at the same time another officer bent both of Angelo’s legs up and backward toward his back for an extended period of time, resulting in his death.  Or at least that’s what attorneys for his family believe.

Civil Rights Attorney John Burris said, “Angelo’s death could have been avoided if the officers took the time to talk with Angelo instead of using similar restraints that killed George Floyd and, like George Floyd, Angelo said to the officers ‘please don’t kill me’ but the officers did exactly that.”

The Vanguard caught up with both Burris and Ben Nisenbaum after the inquest.

The cause of death, according to the coroner, was excited delirium.

This despite a statement by the AMA from June, where the vaunted medical organization announced they oppose the diagnosis of excited delirium.

In a press release in June, the AMA said, they oppose “’excited delirium’ as a medical diagnosis and warns against the use of certain pharmacological interventions solely for a law enforcement purpose without a legitimate medical reason.“

They believe that “current evidence does not support ‘excited delirium’ as an official diagnosis, and (the organization) opposes its use until a clear set of diagnostic criteria has been established.”

Burris was not happy but indicated that this would not change what they do going forward.

“We don’t believe in excited delirium,” Burris said.  “We had our own medical examiner who determined that there was a deprivation of oxygen to the brain caused by restraint asphyxiation that was caused by the officers being on his back and on his neck, his diaphragm pushed against the floor and his legs pulled up in like a boat position—compromising his airway.

“My point of view is they never really addressed the issues that we think are germane to the case,” Burris said and pointed out, “If they really want to get a better picture, they could have called a sister and a mother who were witnesses.  If they had that would have clearly shown it was death at the hands of another.”

When the Vanguard spoke with Burris last week, he called the incident “outrageous on two levels.” One was the use of the “George Floyd technique on him” and he said “the department tried to shame the victim by suggesting that he was under the influence of methamphetamine which was not true,” and secondly that he was “combative, which was not true.”

The police initially denied that anyone stood on his neck.

Burris told the Vanguard that the police chief in this case took the position that no one stood on his neck, which was not true, and “he took that position before he saw the autopsy evidence.”

Burris added, “You would think that departments understand by now, if you put a person on their stomach, once you get control of them, here just like with George Floyd … they were unnecessarily holding the guy down by the neck and telling the mother, this is how we do things.”

And just like in George Floyd, Burris alleges that “they never checked to see the responses that might have saved this guy’s life.

“Later and most disturbing is the police chief made a statement that Angelo did not die of asphyxiation. This statement was made without the autopsy report from the medical examiner,” Burris told the Vanguard.

Attorney Ben Nisenbaum was also outraged.

“Generally speaking it’s a bunch of nonsense,” he said.  “To me it’s right up there with spontaneous combustion.”

Nisenbaum said that it might be theoretically possible that you get “so excited that you die” but the reality is “people who die from excited delirium die with a police officer on top of them, which doesn’t make any sense.”

He said that there are cases where people in an agitated state do in fact die, but that’s usually accompanied by severe hyperthermia where they are running fevers over 105 degrees.

Nisenbaum said that when paramedics arrived at the scene, Quinto’s body temperature was normal.

“According to the police, nobody notices he’s dead until the paramedics arrive,” he said.  “And the paramedics are the ones who find that he’s unresponsive.”

He called them out: “It’s all a bunch of nonsense.  Most of the time the police know that he’s just died and you have a ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’ situation where they’re trying to act like the person’s still alive.”

The paramedics’ report is crucial to understanding this situation, Nisenbaum points out.  The paramedics arrive, find him both unresponsive and not breathing. “They say that he’s been that way for an unknown period of time.  That means it doesn’t just stop.  It didn’t just happen.  They were restraining the guy who was dying and did die underneath them and they want to call that excited delirium.”

He previously pointed out from the paramedic report that they had Quinto in a prone restraint for over six minutes and likely closer to eight.  And “they want to call that excited delirium.”

Nisenbaum goes on to state: “The length of the prone restraint is shocking, but even more so is what the officers involved, the chief and the Antioch Police Department have done since then to mislead the media and the public.”

According to them, that continued with the coroner’s finding of accidental death.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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