By Rena Abdusalam
OAKLAND, CA – A filing of a petition for Writ of Mandate against the County of Contra Costa and the County’s Coroner’s Office was announced Friday by civil rights attorney John Burris, calling for the court to overrule the coroner’s finding that Angelo Quinto’s death was accidental.
Quinto’s death was a homicide and not an accident, according to Burris.
A recent discovery surrounding Quinto’s death has been uncovered, said Burris, charging the death was caused by positional asphyxiation produced by Antioch police officers suppressing Quinto’s breathing.
On December 24, 2020, the 30-year-old Navy veteran died at his family’s home while being handcuffed face down and physically restrained for various minutes by multiple Antioch police officers, said Burris.
Burris explained the County of Contra Costa held a Coroner’s Inquest to identify the reason and manner of Quinto’s death on August 20, 2021. And, at the inquest hearing, the pathologist that performed Quinto’s autopsy, Dr. Ikechi Ogan, testified Quinto died from excited delirium.
However, another pathologist, Bennet Omalu, was hired by Quinto’s family shortly after the veteran’s death, Burris said.
Dr. Omalu stated several florid petechial hemorrhages that the county pathologist said were not present in Quinto’s eyes were, in fact, there and that the cause of death was restraint asphyxiation, maintains Burris.
From July 27, 2022 to Feb. 1, 2023, Quinto’s family deposed the Contra Costa County coroner over the course of three depositions and filed a Civil Rights Wrongful Death lawsuit against the pathologist, Burris noted.
Burris said when shown Dr. Omalu’s autopsy photographs of Quinto’s florid petechial hemorrhages in his eyes and his own autopsy photographs showed some petechial hemorrhages, Dr. Ogan, under oath, acknowledged Quinto’s death was caused not by “excited delirium” but by a combination of asphyxiation and weight force pressure on his back during the restraint.
“The ‘excited delirium’ finding of the Contra Costa County Coroner’s Office inquest was an outlandish misrepresentation,” Burris said, adding, “The American Medical Association has discredited excited delirium as bunk science used principally in police wrongful death.”
Burris noted, “In my opinion, excited delirium is used conveniently by police to find medical reasons to justify their action in death cases. In this case, shockingly, we have discovered…pathologist Dr. Ogan had reason to believe that Angelo had been held down by the officers but inexplicably failed to testify about this at the coroner’s inquest.”
“The pathologist’s failure to disclose those facts represented a miscarriage of justice and caused untold pain and misery for Angelo’s family,” Burris argued, adding, “The misdiagnosis of Angelo’s death by the county’s coroner undermines his family’s confidence in the integrity of the Sheriff-Coroner’s Office.”
“When I heard the County Coroner at the inquest claim Angelo died from excited delirium, I was shocked. We knew that he was wrong,” recollected Quinto family attorney Ben Nisenbaum.
Nisenbaum added, “Our respected independent pathologist conducted a second autopsy and concluded that Angelo’s death was caused by restraint asphyxiation and not excited delirium. Nor did he die from an overdose of illegal drugs as was falsely suggested by the Antioch PD.”
Burris believes the attorney general or Contra Costa District Attorney’s office should take another review of Quinto’s case, suggesting with this new evidence, it should be for the purpose of determining whether criminal charges should be filed against the police officers.
Burris said, “Even if the Contra Costa DA does not occur, Quinto’s family wants the death certificate to be amended to correctly reflect that Angelo’s death was not an accident, nor did he die from drugs or excited delirium. He died from the officer’s conduct by suppressing his breathing by sitting and holding him down for an extended time with great force.”
“The coroner’s wrongful conclusion undermined the integrity of the ‘Coroner’s Inquest’ itself, and that now discredited decision caused untold grief to the Quinto family,” said Burris. “The Writ of Mandate hearing that we are requesting is to undo that grievous wrong.”