On December 23, 2020, in her home in Antioch, California (60 miles northeast of Milpitas), Maria Quinto-Collins started running a video camera and aimed it toward the floor.
Her son Angelo Quinto, a 30-year-old Filipino-American veteran of the U.S. Navy, lay there unconscious. According to his mother, moments earlier, he had yelled to the two police officers detaining him, “Please don’t kill me! Please don’t kill me!”
Quinto-Collins’ video shows the aftermath of an event that is being subject to debate between her family and Antioch police, as well as to national scrutiny given the ways in which its details echo the death of George Floyd in May of 2020.
The video shows two officers rolling Angelo over onto his side. Prior, he had been face down. Offscreen, Quinto-Collins repeats a question: “What happened?”
Angelo died in the hospital three days later.
Four officers showed up at the house that night: Arturo Becerra, Daniel Hopwood, James Perkinson, and Nicholas Shipilov. According to Becerra and Perkinson, upon entering, they saw Angelo’s mother holding him down against the bedroom floor. They moved in to cuff him, asking her to step aside.
What the officers claim to have seen upon entering is consistent with the substance of the 911 call placed to police before they arrived at Angelo’s home shortly after 11pm…
Angelo’s sister placed the call. She said Angelo was strangling their mom, and the mother was not breathing. She mentioned also that Angelo took drugs. The sister was armed with a hammer, she said, which her brother had taken from her at one point — but she managed to get it back.
It’s after the officers’ entry where the stories diverge…
The family says the two officers who can be seen rolling Angelo over in the video knelt on his back for five minutes. One at a time, they are alleged to have kneeled on Angelo’s neck. Soon blood appeared on the floor under Angelo’s face, dripping from his mouth.
In a wrongful-death claim filed by the family on February 18 against the City of Antioch in pursuit of punitive damages, it reads that Angelo “died as a direct consequence of the unreasonable force used against him.”
Meanwhile, an independent autopsy has been put into motion, based on the suspicion that Angelo’s death was caused by asphyxiation.
In a press conference conducted on March 1, almost two months after Angelo’s death, Antioch Police Chief Tammany Brooks painted a contrasting picture of what happened:
“At one point during the handcuffing, an officer did briefly for a few seconds have a knee across a portion of Angelo’s shoulder blade, which is a common control technique taught in California POST approved police academies for prone handcuffing,” said Brooks.
Antioch police officers do not wear body cameras or have dash cams in their vehicles, but Brooks said he supported introducing them. About a week later, on March 9, the Antioch City Council partitioned $1.4 million for such cameras. Next week, on March 23, the council will discuss implementing a mental health crisis response team.
Angelo’s paranoia and other mental health symptoms are traced by his family to an incident from 2020 wherein he woke in the hospital with stitches in his head and couldn’t remember how he got there.
At the March 1 police press conference, Brooks also released a variety of pathological findings:
Angelo was injured, but according to the reports, the injuries were not fatal. His skull, extremities, and torso contained no fractures. And his neck showed no evidence of him having been strangled or his airway having been crushed.
More toxicology testing is underway, based on Angelo’s history of drug use. The Antioch Police Department is meanwhile being investigated by a third party for any violations of departmental policy on the night of December 23.
On March 10, Angelo Quinto would have turned 31 years old. That night, his family held a vigil for him at Antioch’s City Park.
Civil rights attorney John Burris, who’s representing Angelo’s family in their wrongful-death suit, spoke with The Beat in an exclusive interview Saturday. Of the wrongful-death suit, he said, “No update. There’s still an investigation.”
Of the independent autopsy on Angelo’s body, Burris said they’re still awaiting results: “It’s been sent to a pathologist. His own individual autopsy has been performed, obviously. But the second portion, and that is the tests — the blood tests, urine tests, which are traditional — he sent out to his own lab.” Contra Costa County has meanwhile run the same tests. Said Burris, “The County has not given us their information about the tests. But, you know, it’s within the range of time periods. Although I think the County should have been done by now…”
As for the Antioch Police Department’s contention that Angelo was not fatally injured in custody, Burris fired back, “That’s ridiculous, ok? It’s ridiculous. He died from positional asphyxiation. He was perched when it happened. He was not under the influence of significant drugs that I know of. But the way he was positioned by them — he’s on his stomach…his legs being pushed up, and he’s handcuffed — you create an asphyxiation scenario. And that’s what our case is. It’s not a beating case. It’s not a choking case. It’s not a skull fracture case. It’s a positional asphyxiation case. And that’s what it is. And I’ve told that from the very beginning. And of course the city doesn’t want to believe that — of course. Because that suggests that the police acted improperly, they should have known better. But that’s our position.”
Asked if he expects the private autopsy’s results to differ from those of the official one, Burris explained, “In cases where there’s no straight gunshot, or gunshot wound or something, or a straight beating, I don’t have confidence in the pathologists in that local area. Because number one, they’re very close to the police. And number two, they get a story from the police, and they make the autopsy fit it. In fact, that’s why I do second autopsies. Because I don’t have trust — and I’m not calling them bad people or what not. I’m saying they have a bias because they work directly with the local police. And the local police is the one that tells them a scenario. And then the pathologist then decides whether it fits or not, and they don’t necessarily rule out…that there were other options here. So that’s why I’m always suspicious. Not negative towards them in terms of professionalism, but I also know that they are influenced by the police.”