Family of California man who died days after police restrained him is getting $7.5M in settlement with city

A Northern California city has agreed to pay $7.5 million to the family of a 30-year-old man who died days after police restrained him in 2020, the parties announced Wednesday, settling a wrongful death claim that the family filed.

Angelo Quinto’s family filed the claim against the city of Antioch in February 2021, alleging he was undergoing a mental health episode and died days after police officers kneeled on the back of his neck for nearly five minutes to subdue him.

A year later, the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s office said an internal examination determined Quinto’s neck area had no damage; that it saw “no evidence of criminal offense by Antioch police officers” in Quinto’s death; and that the officers had “engaged with Quinto in a manner that was lawful and objectively reasonable under the circumstances.”

“While there are conflicting medical opinions as to the cause of death, the accounts of what transpired in the bedroom are consistent among all witnesses in that no police officer applied pressure to Quinto’s neck,” the district attorney’s office said in 2022.

Police restrained Quinto at the family’s home in Antioch on December 23, 2020, after his sister called police because he had a mental health episode and she feared he would hurt their mother, the family’s attorneys had said. Quinto lost consciousness, and was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead three days later, the family attorneys said in the claim.

Quinto’s cause of death “was Excited Delirium Syndrome due to drug intoxication, psychiatric conditions, physical exertion, and cardiac arrest,” an autopsy performed five days after Quinto was restrained by the officers found, the district attorney’s office said in 2022.

On Wednesday, an attorney for Quinto’s family, Ben Nisenbaum, said that Quinto’s family was the “moving force” behind legislation eventually signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom banning excited delirium and other similar terms to be listed as cause of death in California. He said a coroner inquest listed excited delirium – which is “characterized by agitation, aggression, acute distress and sudden death,” according to the National Library of Medicine – as Quinto’s cause of death.

John L. Burris, another lawyer for the family, said the settlement shows something positive can come out of a tragedy. “This is a case where the family, from day one, took the tragedy and the loss and the circumstances surrounding Angelo’s death and tried to turn it into a positive good, and they did so,” Burris said.

“The real plus that comes from this case is the collective efforts on their part, and the willingness on the part of the city officials, including the mayor’s office … to bring about a positive change,” Burris said.

Antioch Mayor Lamar Hernandez-Thorpe said that while two people died in police custody during the first 30 days of his administration, he “was left with the impression that this wasn’t a big deal.”

“$7.5 million later – and that’s never enough to make up for somebody’s loved one – we recognized that it was a bigger issue than what we understood,” the mayor said at Wednesday’s news conference, adding that the city council had previously fought against body-worn cameras for police officers.

“Years of, frankly, failed leadership brought us to this moment, but I am happy to say that we’ve done an enormous job in terms of changing the culture, not just at the police department, but at the city as well, and taking these concerns serious,” the mayor said. “We’ve done a lot in terms of establishing reforms that I think build a safer community for every single segment of our city and to ensure that people do have justice when we are wrong.”

Angelo Quinto. - Law Offices of John Burris
Angelo Quinto. - Law Offices of John Burris

During the news conference, Quinto’s stepfather, Robert Collins, thanked the mayor and the city council for listening to his family’s calls for change.

“We found a city that has listened to a lot of our pleas and has begun to make the necessary changes that we need to have,” Collins said. “It’s a process of change. We’re not done here. It’s a process that will take many years.”

Thanks to the family’s claim, police body cameras “are now a reality in Antioch,” and a non-police mental health response team “has prevented other people from dying,” Collins said.

Quinto’s sister, Isabella Collins, described her brother as “multifaceted.” He was artistic, loved to cook and was always trying to better himself, she said.

“This is some semblance of justice that we’ve been able to work toward positive reforms and positive change – legislative and advocacy change,” Isabella Collins said. “I think that if my brother couldn’t have life, that perhaps this is what he would choose, this impact on other people’s lives and other people’s legacies, the ability to pave the way toward some justice and justice for others.”

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