By David M. Greenwald
Antioch, CA – It was a year ago December 23 that the life was taken from Angelo Quinto following a mental health call from his family.
The incident, covered numerous times now by the Vanguard, involved a 911 call at 11 pm, when Quinto, a 30-year-old unmarried Filipino male with a recent history of mental impairment, “was grabbed from his mother’s arms and thrown to the floor in his home by Antioch police officers.”
He was then handcuffed by an officer who placed his knee on his back while, 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.
Officially the cause of death has been ruled an accident and excited delirium by the county coroner, although the family’s medical evaluator determined it asphyxiation and the family and their attorneys have been extremely critical of the pathologist’s controversial diagnosis—which the AMA says is used to justice excessive force by police.
“In the year since my brother’s death, my family has worked as hard as we can each day to pursue necessary change in his name,” said Bella Collins, the sister of Quinto.” I feel fortunate to say that we’ve achieved and been a part of some important accomplishments in this time, but it’s only the beginning of a lifelong striving toward justice for Kuya Angelo. I hope that this December 23rd, as we honor my brother’s memory, we can remind ourselves of our strength as we work together to ensure what happened to Kuya Angelo does not continue to happen to others.”
Rob Bonta, now the Attorney General, worked with Assemblymember Mike Bipson in support of the passage of AB 490, which now prohibits law enforcement from using restraints that lead to positional asphyxia.
Bonta came to express his love and support for the family and community “as we do our best to turn such tragedy into change and more justice going forward. Durable change that is worthy of the beautiful life of Angelo Quinto.”
He added, “I know the journey has been long and it’s been challenging and painful. You have already made a difference in the lives of people you will never know.”
Assemblymember Mike Gipson said that when he heard about this tragedy, he and Rob Bonta “stood up to create a piece of legislation to make sure that no other family has to go through what this family had to endure.”
He reiterated, “We wanted to make sure that no family had to endure and experience what this family had to endure and experience ever again in this state.”
The legislation will ensure that law enforcement can no longer use any instrument to cut off someone’s ability to breathe, including the carotid control hold.
Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe said that he did not know where he was on this day a year ago, but he said on December 31, he was on the phone with former chief of police, Tammy Brooks, and earlier that day he had received a couple of Facebook messages asking if someone had died in police custody.
“My honest answer was, I don’t think that’s the case. I’m sure that if that happened, I would know,” he said. “There’s no way somebody would die in police custody and I would not know about it.”
He asked the chief and his response was, “Well, technically yes.” “But he explained it away, in all honesty, my take away from all that was… okay, not a big deal.
“It was a huge deal,” he said. “As a matter of fact, it was a moment that literally changed the course of history for the city of Antioch. Who Antioch used to be is no longer the case.”
He said, “The crown jewel of our police reform efforts here in Antioch is the mental health crisis response team. It will be known as the Antioch CARES team, which will launch next year.
“We also put together a new notification process that mandates that every elected official in the city gets notified of any major event, irrespective of what it is,” said. “No longer will the day exist, where we find out on Facebook that something major has happened in our city, as an elected official.”
In addition, “We will have an independent oversight board of the Antioch police department.”
And they got dash cams and body cameras. He said, “Who would’ve ever thought that there would be a city in the Bay Area that didn’t have body cameras or dash cams—leave it to the city of Antioch.”
Following the death of George Floyd, Mayor Thorpe was elected along with Councilmember Tamisha Torres-Walker and Monica Wilson.
“We literally said the chief of police is no longer the mayor of Antioch. I’m the mayor of Antioch. And so we have taken charge of this city, much to the chagrin of a lot of people who cannot stand the fact that we have stood with you,” he said. “They’re trying to recall us because they can’t stand the fact that we stood, we stand for a whole bunch of things, but primarily around police reform.”
Councilmember Torres-Walker said, “To the Quinto-Collins family, you are not only my constituents, you are my neighbor. We live around the corner from each other.”
She said, “I was absolutely devastated to find out about the loss of your loved one and the secrecy and lack of transparency in this city.”
But she said, “Behind something that’s tragic, what you all have experienced and are still experiencing today and the long fight for justice, but an even longer fight for healing for yourselves and your community.”
The councilmember noted that she worked hard for the language on body cams and dash cams.
She said, “That language was so important and it was done by myself and many other community members who wanted to make sure that the policy was transparent and that accountability could be leveraged if police officers were caught behaving badly and, God forbid, taking someone’s life.”
Attorney John Burris who represented the family from the start, noted that there were two opportunities here to take a strong look at the policing in this case.
“One was restraint asphyxiation, a horrible way of police engaging in stopping people, and holding them down and ultimately cutting off their airways,” Burris said. “Secondly, the whole question about mental health, how do we treat a mentally impaired person.”
He added, “This is a truly remarkable event here in terms of what has taken place, but can only, but can only happen as a consequence of people, uh, like Quinto family and Mr. Collins and the community activists that are around it were willing to stand up, make a declaration and stay involved.”
Ben Nisenbaum, who has been working as counsel on the case as well, talked about the need to change the culture.
“It is shocking to me the one year ago, Angelo was here. All he needed was a little help. We’ve seen, we’ve had so many cases where officers have pinned someone down and killed them in the same way that Angelo was killed. And it has to change,” he said.