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Family of California Navy veteran who died after officer knelt on his neck settles lawsuit for $7.5M

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Family members of a Navy veteran who died in 2020 after a police officer pressed a knee to his neck for nearly five minutes while he was in a mental health crisis have settled a federal lawsuit against the Northern California city of Antioch for $7.5 million, their attorneys said Wednesday.

After Angelo Quinto’s death, his family also pushed for reforms that led to city and state changes in how law enforcement agencies respond to people who are in a mental health crisis.

John Burris, one of the attorneys, said in a statement that while no amount of money can compensate for Quinto’s death, “his family is to be commended for their unwavering commitment to improving the relationship between the community and Antioch police.”

The lawsuit alleged that Antioch police officers used excessive force when restraining Quinto. It named as defendants the city of Antioch, then-police Chief Tammany Brooks and four officers who responded to a 911 call from Quinto’s family.

Antioch Mayor Lamar Hernandez-Thorpe said Quinto’s death was a catalyst for change in the city of 115,000 people 45 miles (72 kilometers) east of San Francisco.

“How we look at public safety is different than what did literally three or four years ago when we all thought public safety meant cops, cops, cops,” he said. “Not everything requires a police response.”

The family called police on Dec. 23, 2020, because the 30-year-old was in mental distress and needed help. One officer pressed a knee on his neck for nearly five minutes while another restrained his legs, according to the complaint.

After about five minutes of the prone restraint, Quinto appeared to become totally unresponsive, the lawsuit said. He lost consciousness and was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he died three days later.

Quinto’s death came months after the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police and amid a nationwide outcry over police brutality.

In the aftermath, Antioch police officers were equipped with body cameras and city officials created a mental health crisis team and a police review commission.

Quinto’s mother, Cassandra Quinto-Collins, thanked the city of Antioch for the policy changes and said her family’s fight is not yet over.

“I thank you for what has been a courageous beginning to bring about transparency and accountability to the Antioch Police Department so that it may serve our diverse community with respect and mutual trust,” Quinto-Collins said.

Quinto, who was born in the Philippines, served in the U.S. Navy and was honorably discharged in 2019 due to a food allergy, according to his family.

He had depression most of his life, but his behavior changed after an apparent assault in early 2020, when he woke up in a hospital not remembering what had happened and with stitches and serious injuries. After that he began having episodes of paranoia and anxiety, his family said.

By OLGA R. RODRIGUEZ
Associated Press

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