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Vigil held on the third anniversary of Mario Gonzalez’s death in police custody

ALAMEDA – Three years after Mario Gonzalez died in police custody, his family held a vigil Friday to remember his life and celebrate the news from the Alameda County district attorney.

On Thursday, the district attorney announced they were filing charges against the officers who were acquitted in Gonzalez’s death.

Gonzalez’s mother, Edith Arenales, says she has been praying for this day.

“Thinking and thinking, it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. Thank God they opened it back up,” she said.

Police body camera footage showed the interactions that led to Gonzalez’s death in an Alameda park in 2021. Officers spoke with Gonzalez for about nine minutes before attempting to restrain him. He appeared incoherent and resisted arrest, prompting officers to knock him to the ground.

The coroner’s report ruled that Gonzalez died from the toxic effects of meth and the physical stress of restraint.

“My son is gone, but I’m here, I’m still fighting for him,” Arenales said. “We always miss him.”

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Former District Attorney Nancy O’Malley reviewed the case and cleared the three officers of criminal wrongdoing.

But current District Attorney Pamela Price filed a charge of involuntary manslaughter just as the criminal statute of limitations was about to expire.

Arenales says these accusations are like a gift on a day that marks one of the most painful of her life.

“It’s my birthday tomorrow, but this is my gift today,” she said. “When I got the call, we reopened the case.”

If convicted, the officers could face up to four years in prison. Family friend Amanda Majail-Blanco says this is a start.

“We all know that we obviously need more justice than that, but that is clearly a step in the right direction to hold police officers accountable,” she said.

Gonzalez’s brother Jerry hopes these charges will prevent similar situations.

“It’s a big win and a step in the right direction,” Gonzales said. “After they get out, they would probably be forced to find another career.”

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Last year, the city of Alameda agreed to pay $11 million to Gonzalez’s family to settle a civil rights lawsuit.

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