California Navy vet died after police knelt on neck amid mental health crisis, family says

The family of a Navy veteran who called police while he was struggling with a mental health crisis is alleging that officers used excessive force that led to his death and is suing the city of Antioch, California, for damages.

The sister of Angelo Quinto, 30, called police on Dec. 23 after noticing her brother had been exhibiting signs of mental distress, according to a complaint filed against the city last week by his mother, Maria Quinto-Collins. Quinto had been exhibiting signs of anxiety, depression and paranoia in the months prior to his death, his family said.

“I trusted the police because I thought they knew what they were doing but he was actually passive and visibly not dangerous or a threat,” Quinto-Collins, who also goes by her middle name Cassandra, told reporters last week. “It was absolutely unnecessary what they did to him.”

When police arrived, Quinto was being held on the floor by his mother and was beginning to calm down, the lawsuit said. Two officers, who were not identified, took Quinto from his mother’s arms as he allegedly said “please don’t kill me,” according to the suit.

The lawsuit claims the two officers then put Quinto down on his stomach, with his legs crossed behind him, and one officer allegedly placed his knee on Quinto’s neck.

“At this point, Mr. Quinto started bleeding from his mouth,” the lawsuit said. “At no time while being restrained did Mr.Quinto resist physically or verbally. After being restrained for almost 5 minutes, Mr. Quinto became lifeless.”

Video recorded by Quinto-Collins — posted online by the family’s lawyer and presented at a press conference last week by the attorney — appears to show the incident.

The video has not been verified by NBC News and it is not known what happened before or after what’s shown in the video, nor whether or how it may have been edited.

The video appears to show officers rolling Quinto onto his side at some point during the encounter. What seems to be blood is visible on the floor as well as on Quinto’s face.

Officers and paramedics appear in the video to lift Quinto out of the room onto a gurney where paramedics performed chest compressions. Quinto did not seem to be conscious or responsive in the video.

He was later taken to a hospital where he “never regained consciousness” and died three days later, the lawsuit says.

Quinto’s family is now alleging that the Navy veteran “died as a direct consequence of the unreasonable force used against him” and that officers ignored his cries of distress.

It is unclear if Quinto was ever formally diagnosed with a mental illness, based on the lawsuit filing. John Burris, the attorney for Quinto’s family, did not answer questions regarding Quinto’s cause of death or mental health diagnosis in email exchanges with NBC News on Wednesday.

“This certainly falls within one of the more egregious a case you can have, not because the physical conduct was brutal, like we have in cases where people have been shot unnecessarily or beaten to death,” Burris said at a press conference last week. “This is a situation where it was more subtle than that.”

Burris at the press conference compared Quinto’s death with that of George Floyd, a Black man who died in Minneapolis last year after officers restrained him by placing a knee to his neck.

Neither the city attorney for Antioch nor the Antioch Chief of Police Tammany Brooks responded to a request for comment. Lt. John Fortner of the Antioch Police Department told Mercury News last week that a cause of death had yet to be determined.

Officers called an ambulance to place Quinto in a mental health hold when he began experiencing a medical emergency, according to Fortner. “They had the ambulance step up their response,” Fortner told Mercury News. “(The ambulance) transported him to hospital, they stabilized him for three days and he unfortunately passed away.”

Quinto, born in the Philippines, moved to the U.S. when he was a child, according to his obituary. He attended Berkeley City College and dreamed of joining the U.S. Navy, where he was honorably discharged for medical reasons, the obituary said.

“His creativity, humor, and drive will be missed greatly by his family and friends,” the obituary said. “He leaves behind his mother, Cassandra, his stepfather, Robert, his two younger siblings, Andrei and Isabella, and his close cousin, Miguel.”