California veteran suffering mental health crisis died after police knelt on his neck, family says

ANTIOCH, Calif. — With her brother in the throes of a mental health crisis, Isabella “Bella” Collins called police to intervene, fearing he might injure their mother before calm replaced his paranoia.

Three days later, 30-year-old Angelo Quinto was dead, and family members contend the actions of officers with the Antioch Police Department are to blame.

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“I asked the detectives if there (was) another number I should have called, and they told me that there wasn’t and that I did the right thing. But right now, I can tell you that the right thing would not have killed my brother,” Bella Collins, 18, told NBC News, recounting the horror that unfolded Dec. 23.

The family filed a legal claim against the Northern California city and its police department last week, and attorney John Burris told the network that if Antioch police do not respond within the ascribed 45 days, the family will file a federal lawsuit.

Specifically, the Quinto-Collins family contends that one responding officer knelt on Quinto’s neck for nearly five minutes while another officer restrained his legs. Quinto, who lost and never regained consciousness, was taken by ambulance to an area hospital, where he died three days later, NBC News reported.

“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,” Quinto’s mother, Cassandra Quinto-Collins, said.

Quinto-Collins also told the network that she began recoding video of the encounter after seeing her son’s eyes were rolled up in his head. The video clearly depicts Quinto’s listless body and bloodied face with his hands cuffed behind his back.

Burris said during a Thursday news conference announcing the legal action that there are “a lot of issues wrong here,” the East Bay Times reported.

“The technique applied by officers. The failure to de-escalate. The jumping on his back, the putting into his neck by a knee … We had a healthy young man in his mother’s arms. The police grabbed him. They themselves, their conduct, snuffed the life out of him. We see that not only as a violation of his civil rights but it’s a violation of humanity, frankly,” Burris said.

Bella Collins told NBC News that her brother, who was born in the Philippines, was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy in 2019 because of a food allergy.

Quinto, she said, suffered from depression most of his life, but his behavior became more erratic following an apparent assault in early 2020 that landed him in the hospital with no recollection of what caused his serious injuries. Following his hospitalization, her brother began experiencing bouts of paranoia and anxiety, Collins told the network.

Meanwhile, the official police version of the Dec. 23 incident, which was not made public until the East Bay Times formally petitioned for its release, differs vastly from the family’s account.

According to the Times, police said in their report that Quinto suffered a “medical emergency” while officers detained him and that handcuffing Quinto was the extent of the force exercised.

Police spokesman Lt. John Fortner told the newspaper that more information about Quinto’s death would be released once “several unknowns” were cleared up.

The results of an autopsy are still pending, the Times reported.

Quinto’s mother told NBC News that she still cannot believe the entire incident played out right in front of her, only moments after she had been holding him in her arms.

“I trusted the police because I thought they knew what they were doing, but he was actually passive and visibly not dangerous or a threat, so it was absolutely unnecessary what they did to him,” Quinto-Collins said.