ANTIOCH, Calif. -- Authorities said that officers did not use an illegal "knee-on-neck" chokehold to detain Angelo Quinto, a Bay Area Navy veteran who died during a confrontation with police in December. His family has since filed a wrongful death lawsuit.
The family of Quinto called police on Dec. 23 because the 30-year-old was suffering a mental health crisis at their home in Antioch, 45 miles east of San Francisco. His family says a responding officer knelt on Quinto's neck for nearly five minutes while another officer restrained his legs. Quinto lost consciousness and was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he died three days later.
"He said 'Please don't kill me. Please don't kill me,' as they were putting him on the ground. They handcuffed him and one officer put his knee on the back of his neck the whole time I was in the room," said Quinto's mother, Cassandra Quinto-Collins.
Antioch Police Chief Tammany Brooks said on Tuesday that Quinto was being "actively restrained" by his mother on the bedroom floor. Officers asked her to release him, so he could be arrested.
"At one point during the handcuffing, an officer did briefly, for a few seconds, have a knee across a portion of Angelo's shoulder blade," which Brooks called an "approved" technique taught at California police academies.
"At no point did any officer use a knee, or other body parts to gain leverage or apply pressure to Angelo's head, neck, or throat, which is outside of our police and training," he continued.
Brooks said at one point an officer repositioned to control Quinto's legs, which officers say were thrashing around. Officers called an ambulance and more police arrived on the scene.
He said as medics entered the room, Quinto was no longer conscious and was "immediately" rush to the hospital. He was later transferred to an intensive care unit, where he died three days later.
Brooks said multiple pathologists have found no evidence of strangulation or crushed airways after a full examination of Quinto's neck.
Quinto did have injuries consistent with his struggle with his family and officers, but none of them proved to be fatal, according to the same sources.
John Burris, the Quintos' attorney, said along with claims of a knee restraint, there were other issues with the officers' response, including how they didn't try to de-escalate and first talk to Quinto, and how they failed to turn on their body cameras and the camera in their patrol car.
The department didn't inform the public of Quinto's death until Jan. 25 when it answered inquiries made by East Bay Times.
The investigation is still ongoing.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Police say no illegal knee-on-neck chokeholds used on Angelo Quinto after family files wrongful death lawsuit