“Please don’t kill me, please don’t kill me” was 30-year-old Filipino-American Navy veteran Angelo Quinto’s plea to police officers as he was being detained at his family’s Antioch, California home after suffering a mental breakdown two days before Christmas last year.
After a few moments, while in front of his family—and still in police custody, handcuffed and faced down on the floor—Angelo became unresponsive, with blood streaming from his mouth. In three days, he was pronounced dead in the hospital.
More than a month after his death, Angelo’s family has filed a legal claim against the city that seeks damages of more than $25,000. In a report by the San Francisco Chronicle, the claim alleges wrongful death, assault, battery, negligent hiring by the Antioch Police Department, breach of duty by the officers accused of putting Angelo at risk of serious physical injury and other offenses.
Angelo, who was born in the Philippines, was said to have showed signs of depression all his life but it was never diagnosed according to his sister Isabella Collins. She said Angelo’s behavior changed after he experienced a traumatic physical assault last year. In the following months, Angelo seemed “anxious and edgy.”
Isabella told the Chronicle that on the night of Dec. 23, Angelo was agitated and grabbed her and her mother, Cassandra Quinto-Collins, and began hugging them tightly and tried to keep both of them close. In an interview with KTVU, Cassandra said her son told them not to leave him.
Isabella then called 911, telling the operator that her brother was acting erratically, while Cassandra was on the floor of their bedroom clutching Angelo in a bear hug.
Cassandra said in an interview that Angelo calmed down when the police arrived. The police then took her son from her, turned him face down on the floor and handcuffed him. She also recounted that one officer was holding Angelo’s legs and another had his knee or lower leg at the back of her son's neck.
After realizing that something was wrong with his son, Cassandra started to record a video, which showed the police officers trying to wake up Angelo, who was unconscious and still handcuffed. They turned Angelo’s motionless body and revealed his blood-smeared face.
Cassandra can be heard in the video asking the officers, “what happened?” and “can you take him, please?”
Seen in the video are three officers, one of them removing Angelo’s handcuffs, and what looked like two members of the paramedics, who placed Angelo on a stretcher.
“Does he have a pulse? What’s happening?” Cassandra asked again as the paramedics were trying to revive Angelo.
The Chronicle reported that after Angelo was brought to the hospital, where he would breathe his last after three days, Cassandra and Isabella were brought to the police station to be photographed and interviewed.
According to KTVU, the Antioch Police Department did not issue a press release or a statement about the case when it happened, even days after Cassandra’s video, which was released by the family’s lawyer, circulated online. The police department have also yet to release the names of the police officers who responded that night or if they were wearing body-cams at the time of the incident.
Antioch Police Department’s Lt. John Fortner, who said the investigation is still open, issued a statement to KTVU that said, “Once some additional portions of the investigation are completed APD will be getting together with all the involved agencies to provide more information to the public.”
Speaking with The Mercury News, Fortner said while the officers handcuffed Angelo, they “did not use physical force” like a taser, pepper spray, baton, or strikes to his body. “They had the ambulance step up their response,” Fortner said. “(The ambulance) transported him to hospital, they stabilized him for three days and he unfortunately passed away.”
As Angelo’s family seeks justice for his death at the hands of the police, they set up a Facebook group Justice for Angelo Quinto, which also calls for “fundamental changes to policing, starting at the local level with the City of Antioch and the Antioch Police Department.”
The page also carries initial calls to action including the following: 1. End the use of the knee-to-neck restraint that was used on George Floyd (whose death was brought by cops kneeling on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds) and also used on Angelo Quinto; 2. Establish and fully fund 24/7 Mental Health Crisis Response Teams for the City of Antioch; and 3. Require body cameras and dash cameras.
In his obituary, it was said that Angelo dreamt of having a career in the US Navy, but was honorably discharged for medical reasons (due to food allergies, according to the Washington Post). He tried to remain positive and assured his loved ones that the Navy was not a closed chapter in his life. Before his death, Angelo planned to start a career in online gaming.
Angelo would be remembered for his “great ambition, abundance of great ideas and many talents, and his constant strive for happiness and success.”