Angelo Quinto's death is another reminder that we can't trust cops to handle mental health crises

Angelo Quinto Press Conference
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Yesterday, news spread of Angelo Quinto, a 30-year-old who died after a police officer allegedly knelt on his neck in his Antioch, California home on December 23. Police arrived in response to a 911 call Quinto’s family had made because he appeared to be experiencing a mental health emergency, the Washington Post reports. The incident reminds us once again that we can’t trust cops to handle mental health crises, period.

One officer allegedly knelt on the Navy veteran’s neck for close to five minutes, while his mother, Cassandra Quinto Collins, could do little else but watch, the Post reports. The details of how his health regressed after that are still unclear, but Quinto stopped breathing and died in the hospital three days after the incident.

In a graphic video taken by his mother, Cassandra Quinto Collins, she repeatedly asks the officers what happened. They try to awaken her son, who remains unresponsive, lying on the floor, his face apparently blood-streaked. An officer asks Quinto Collins if she saw him “take anything,” or if he had “illegal drugs.” Quinto Collins repeats what she’s already told them — she’d just arrived from work, and didn’t know what was going on.

After Quinto Collins’ footage, there’s a re-enactment of the moments leading up to it, filmed for the family’s attorney, John Burriss. “Please don’t kill me, please don’t kill me,” Quinto pleaded, according to the re-enactment, as officers took him from his mother’s arms and shoved him to the floor. The family claims an officer knelt on Quinto’s neck for four-and-a-half to five minutes.

Antioch police took more than a month to publicly acknowledge Quinto’s death and their hand in the encounter, after the San Jose Mercury periodically contacted them about it, the newspaper reports. Antioch police spokesperson Lt. John Fortner said the officers didn’t use physical force, but the family maintains that this simply isn’t true.

Quinto’s death bears a chilling resemblance to that of Daniel Prude last March. Prude’s brother, Joe, had called police because he seemed to be having a mental health crisis. Officers held Daniel against the ground for minutes on end. A week later, he died in the hospital. Last December, Pennsylvania state police shot and killed 19-year-old Christian Hall, who was also having a mental health crisis.

Clearly, the police we often rely on to help people undergoing mental health crises can actually threaten their safety, if not their very lives. There are a few ways people can help a loved one in these situations without calling the cops, but the options are far from adequate and vary depending on jurisdiction, as Mic previously reported. In some places, the police really are the only option. Yes, our mental health system is broken, but cops aren’t the answer, as they often lack the specialized training needed to safely handle a mental health crisis, USA Today reports.

Some Asian American community members have called for more policing in response to the rising tide of anti-Asian violence, but organizers have pointed out that this would come at the expense of Black Americans, who are disproportionately targeted by police. The fact that Quinto was Filipinx American, while Hall was Chinese American, show that the police that some want to protect our community can harm it, too.

As Isabella Collins, Quinto’s sister, said in a news conference in regards to the police, per the Mercury: “We trusted them too much.”