ALAMEDA, CA – APRIL 21: Mario Gonzalez Jr., 4, center, along with friends and family members of his father Mario Gonzalez, gather during a candlelight vigil in Alameda, Calif. On Wednesday, April 21, 2021 The Oakland father of a 4-year-old child died in custody after being arrested by Alameda police on April 19. The family requests answers from the Alameda Police Department. (Ray Chavez / Bay Area News Group)
ALAMEDA – Community members and activists gathered Wednesday to request certain items from authorities following the death of a 26-year-old Oakland man.
Mario Gonzalez died after an “argument” with officers who tried to put his hands behind his back in a small park just off the city’s Park Street corridor, Alameda police said in a statement Tuesday. Authorities said Gonzalez suffered an unspecified medical emergency.
On Wednesday evening, family members set up devotional candles in the park at the end of Oak and Powell streets, arranged cut flowers in clear glass vases, and put up pictures of him smiling, eating with people, and wearing a tuxedo.
Amanda Majail-Blanco, of downtown Oakland, hugs Edith Arenales during a candlelight vigil for Arenales’ son Mario Gonzalez in Alameda, California on Wednesday, April 21, 2021. Gonzalez, 26, an Oakland resident and father of a 4-year-old child, died in custody after being arrested by Alameda police on April 19. The family requests answers from the Alameda Police Department. Majail-Blanco’s brother Erick Salgado, 23, was shot dead by the California Highway Patrol in June 2020. (Ray Chavez / Bay Area News Group)
Alameda-resident Jennifer Rakowski held up a sign with the text from the police department’s first tweet about the incident.
“It was only said that officers were on the site of a death investigation and the fact that they were the cause of the death investigation completely disappeared,” said Rakovsky. “And so they only ask for an (external) investigation after the subsequent pressure from the family, the community.”
Rakovsky criticized Alameda PD for using the Alameda County sheriff’s office to investigate the death, saying the sheriff’s office “had a worse record of law enforcement-related deaths than Alameda PD”.
ALAMEDA, CA – APRIL 21: Ward members, friends, and family members of Mario Gonzalez gather during a candlelight vigil in Alameda, Calif. On Wednesday, April 21, 2021 -year-old child died in custody after being arrested by Alameda police on April 19. The family requests answers from the Alameda Police Department. (Ray Chavez / Bay Area News Group)
“It’s like calling a fox to guard the chicken coop,” she said, calling for independent civilian oversight of the Alameda police force. “So there needs to be continued pressure to ensure that we are conducting a fair, open and transparent investigation and that the family gets the answers they need.”
Police said Tuesday that the three officers Gonzalez faced were not using guns and that video footage from the officers’ body-worn camera had been turned over to investigators from the Alameda District Attorney’s Office and the Sheriff’s Office, conducting the separate and parallel investigation carry out. The footage is unlikely to be released until April 30, police said.
Gonzalez’s family said he was healthy and free of diseases and requested an independent examination and autopsy.
In images like this, family members remember Mario Gonzalez, 26, of Oakland, who died in police custody on Monday, April 19, 2021, as the son, father, brother and devoted caretaker of a younger adult brother after an argument in police custody lives with autism. (Courtesy of the Gonzalez family)
The vigil began with a plea from Mario’s younger brother Gerardo to transform Alameda, an activist collective advocating for issues of racial justice and representation, but soon relied on Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice, where Gerardo worked before joining one last year completed higher education.
Barni Qaasim, director of digital organization at CURYJ, said Gerardo was involved in previous legislative and activist campaigns by the group.
Qaasim said on Wednesday afternoon, “(Gerardo) turned to us and said, ‘We have no idea what happened. They said he was dead, they said it was a disease, medical complications, but what does that mean? He has no illness. ‘”
Although the vigil was expected to be attended by several organizations in East Bay, Qaasim said its purpose was to help the bereaved family about the loss of Gonzalez, father of a 4-year-old son and caretaker of a younger brother living with autism to support .
“We always try to focus on the family because they just need support. The people who come are definitely not coming for the organization, ”said Qaasim. “You come for the family. So they know they need to know and love Mario as we know and love Jerry, and we just always show up to support him and his family. “
At the vigil on Wednesday evening, Gerardo spoke openly about the depth of the loss of his family.
“My mother was called to go to the hospital and when she was there they told her that he had a medical emergency, they could not bring him. She couldn’t even see him. When she was there, it was already being rolled out.
“I go there [last] Friday night. I came here to celebrate my mom’s birthday weekend. It was yesterday, ”he said. “We get that as a gift. I am not going now. I should be back in North Carolina today. I’ll stay here and fight until we get justice.
“We don’t need condolences. There’s my second brother I’m losing, ”he said, referring to an earlier family tragedy. “We need people who are ready to fight. We need that. As the sister over there said, it’s not just the hashtag: Be about this action. “
ALAMEDA, CA – APRIL 21: Nidia Rodriguez comforts former Coliseum College Prep Academy classmate Gerardo Gonzalez during a candlelight vigil for his brother Mario Gonzalez in Alameda, Calif. On Wednesday, April 21, 2021. Gonzalez, 26, Oakland resident and father of a 4-year-old child died in custody after being arrested by Alameda police on April 19. The family requests answers from the Alameda Police Department. (Ray Chavez / Bay Area News Group)
A GoFundMe fundraiser launched by Gerardo Gonzalez on Wednesday afternoon had raised $ 23,782 at 11:30 p.m. on Wednesday for a goal of $ 180,000. The account says the funds will be used for an independent autopsy and funeral, five month care for brother living with autism, initial legal fees, living expenses, and a college fund for Mario Gonzalez’s son. The campaign is visible at https://www.gofundme.com/f/justice-mario-gonzalez-family
Contact George Kelly at 408-859-5180.
ALAMEDA, CA – APRIL 21: People bring flowers and candles to a makeshift memorial to Mario Gonzalez displayed during a candlelight vigil in Alameda, California on Wednesday, April 21, 2021. Gonzalez, 26, an Oakland resident and father of a 4-year-old child died in custody after being arrested by Alameda police on April 19. The family requests answers from the Alameda Police Department. (Ray Chavez / Bay Area News Group)
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