Blogging Bayport Alameda

April 28, 2021

911 is not a joke

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:08 am

Thanks to the Alamedans who went to the press conference held by Mario Gonzalez’s family for those unable to make it out. The City Council is holding a special meeting on May 8 to talk specifically about police reform issues but expect the May 4 meeting to have non agenda public comments what happened at the press conference and what is seen on the body camera video.

When we saw similarities and shades of the George Floyd tragedy in the initial press releases, the retelling of what was on the video is uncomfortably similar including a reference to a knee on the neck.

I don’t want to hash out what is or is not on the video because we haven’t all collectively had a chance to view it other than using the lens of the family what I did want to address something that speaker Cat Brooks said during the press conference, specifically the weaponization of police for everything that makes some folks feel slightly uncomfortable. She emphasizes, “there needs to be consequence for people who call the police on us for being brown and Black and breathing.”

This is what some folks were saying when the police were called on Mali Watkins because he was behaving in a way that the caller didn’t feel as though a Black man should behave while walking through the streets of a sheltered-in-place Alameda.

We giggled when we saw now Attorney General, then Assemblymember, Rob Bonta introduce the CAREN act which would classify false emergency calls as a hate crime if the call was motivated by someone’s protected class.

From the KTVU report:

Alameda police said officers detained Gonzalez on the 800 block of Oak Street around 10:45 a.m. after responding to two separate reports of an intoxicated person suspected of theft.

In the video, Sherwin described two Walgreen’s hand carts with a bottle or two of alcohol in one of them. She said that the city attorney told her that the original 911 calls came from neighbors at the scene where Mario died, not from Walgreen’s about a theft. 

And something else that Cat Brooks said but it’s something that I’ve heard other people say that the only way to stop Black and brown folks dying around police officers is to have fewer opportunities for there to be any chance of conflict between police and Black and brown people. But, while reforming police departments is going to be a huge lift maybe getting people used to calling for resources if they see something rather than calling for enforcement is an easier step. It’s not a request to ignore clear criminal behavior like someone actively stealing your catalytic converter but maybe if you see someone you don’t know walking down the street, perhaps you don’t need to call the cops on this person.

Hopefully on May 8 the City Council will take definitive action to get some resources in place to disseminate to the public of where they can call if something needs addressing but it doesn’t need a cop to do it.


  1. A new phone list isn’t close to enough. I expect a lot more from all five members of this council.

    Comment by Gaylon — April 28, 2021 @ 7:18 am

  2. My take after watching up to about the 20 minute mark is that the police had no right to touch him and should never have restrained him. The cops never gave any reason for restraining him and it was obvious by the time the second cop showed up that no one was in danger except maybe Mario himself being either intoxicated or having a health issue. They should have just helped him. And yes, I think the callers and the dispatcher need to own what ended up happening too. All he needed was some help. Maybe just to sit down and be offered some water and to contact his family or friends and get a ride somewhere. The incident is completely indefensible by the police, but I already know they will defend it and so will half our city. It makes me sick and the whole police structure needs to change. Police cannot and should not be only for the protection of white people and their property and fragile feelings.

    Comment by bjsvec — April 28, 2021 @ 8:44 am

  3. Two thoughts:
    1. We shouldn’t have to train 72,000 people on who to call . If you call 911 air the non- emergency number dispatchers should know who to dispatch. They are the ones who are trained extensively on how to assess callers and incidents. Let’s use their training and train them to call for the right services.
    2. I am being told by mental health professionals that Alameda emergency services dispatchers already have the option to call two separate mental Health services providers. It’s already in place, but they seldom use that option. Sounds like we need more training. Let’s start there immediately. I want to know about the options currently in place.

    Comment by Lucy — April 28, 2021 @ 10:44 am

    • I agree with this — we all have years of conditioning, starting in childhood, to dial 911 in case of emergency; I know there are other x11 numbers, but to be honest, I have no idea what they’re for. It would require a huge campaign to get the majority of residents to learn a second non-emergency number, or to convince people to program it on their phones.
      I haven’t listened to the calls, but I wonder if in this case the alleged theft from Walgreens was the deciding factor that caused the dispatcher to send the call to the police instead of to a mental health service provider.

      Comment by trow125 — April 28, 2021 @ 11:32 am

  4. Very tragic, I feel bad for him and his family. But to be clear about the situation: the police rolled up on a black-out drunk person with a basket full of stolen liquor (with anti-shoplifting tags STILL ON THEM) … 50 feet from a daycare …. who was putting his hands in his pocket. And the commenters are saying they should just walk away? Umm, no guys. That’s not how this works.

    Comment by Huge Johnson — April 28, 2021 @ 1:18 pm

    • Once I did an alcohol pick up from Target (you know where they drop it in your car for you). The security tag was still on the bottle. I don’t think I would have been questioned by police if I had been caught with this bottle of alcohol with the security cap still on top.

      Fun fact: you can remove these security caps with a strong magnet and pliers.

      Comment by Lauren Do — April 28, 2021 @ 1:21 pm

      • If you think that alcohol (and the basket) was paid for legitimately, I have a bridge to sell you Lauren.

        Comment by Huge Johnson — April 28, 2021 @ 2:43 pm

        • Funny because according to reports Walgreens did not report a theft. The 911 caller made an assumption based on the gender, race, age, and size of Mario Gonzalez that he did.

          Would the 911 caller have made the same assumption if it was you (probably a white dude) or me (an Asian lady)?

          Bottom line is the consequence for suspected theft and/or public intoxication and/or simply acting spacy in public should not be death.

          Comment by Lauren Do — April 29, 2021 @ 8:47 am

        • Security devices on bottles that he concealed, sitting in stolen baskets, and he refuses to give name or co-operate — those are very strong indications of stolen alcohol. Maybe that doesn’t meet “reasonable doubt” threshold in trial, but it certainly is evidence and it certainly meets the probable cause threshold.

          But his death was not a consequence or a penalty or a sentence for stealing alcohol. His death was an unfortunate & completely unintended result of him actively resisting arrest while in very poor health.

          Comment by Occam — April 29, 2021 @ 9:19 am

        • You don’t have to give cops your name or ID.

          Comment by Lauren Do — April 29, 2021 @ 9:30 am

        • So you are saying cops have the right to approach anyone and restrain them while saying “don’t resist” any time they want. As long as there is some ‘reasonable suspicion’ of a crime no matter how minor, absurd or just made up. Got it. Or did you just mean people who frighten your fragile sensibilities?

          Comment by bjsvec — April 29, 2021 @ 9:32 am

        • “You don’t have to give cops your name or ID.” That too.

          Comment by bjsvec — April 29, 2021 @ 9:33 am

        • Refusal to give name not a crime, but it adds to the prob cause for lawful arrest.

          Comment by Occam — April 29, 2021 @ 9:35 am

        • Yes. I am saying that cops have the right to approach and restrain me or anyone else not “anytime they want” but WHEN THERE IS PROBABLE CAUSE TO DO SO, WHICH THERE WAS IN THIS CASE.

          Comment by Occam — April 29, 2021 @ 9:37 am

        • Could you explain why you are supporting the police in this particular instance and name the things they did right (in your opinion). Truly curious to hear. I am still trying to understand the ramifications of why a parking tech was involved in the killing. That seems so far out of bounds that even you would not defend it.

          Comment by bjsvec — April 29, 2021 @ 9:39 am

        • No good answer for the parking tech thing. Looks and smells very fishy. The easy answer is that he was nearby and tried to help a buddy in a pinch, but even if that is the case, it’s seriously out of bounds.

          But the cops were in the right. They approached slowly & calmly, gave him chance to explain, even a chance to leave “tell me your name & promise not to drink here anymore and you can go” but he would not coperate. they didn’t pull guns or tasers, they attempted to arrest him. He resisted with enough force that two athletic looking men couldn’t cuff him.

          It’s a very unfortunate occurence, but it wasn’t the cops fault. It was mario gonzales fault.

          Comment by Occam — April 29, 2021 @ 9:51 am

    • Way to miss all the points and demean Mario and his family. You don’t know he was drunk. Why nor prescription meds or a health issue? Maybe he was considering drinking himself to death for all anyone knows. The tag may or may not have been on the one bottle (I don’t think it was because he was shown trying to screw the cap back on all while saying things like “sorry” and “thank you” and trying like a child to be polite and nice. The first cop radioed someone to check if Walgreens reported a theft and he heard the reply that they DID NOT. They cop knew that within minutes of arriving. And even if he had stolen some booze and gotten drunk in the park he should not have been treated that way and most importantly should not have been cuffed and killed. Seriously, you need realize *you are part of the problem* if you believe he deserved any bit of what happened except for the first few seconds of “Hey man, how are you? What’s going on?” I mean, really you are implying he was going to hurt children or was going to shoot the cop? Fuck. How can you defend this?? Why do you want to defend this??

      Comment by bjsvec — April 28, 2021 @ 1:33 pm

    • First off, don’t start talking about a daycare. there is no active daycare there right now.
      Second, there are lots of people who hang out at the park minding their own business not bothering anyone, Mr. Gonzalez included. There was no threat to public safety. At the most someone should’ve helped him get home

      Comment by Lucy — April 28, 2021 @ 1:33 pm

  5. For those who missed the Public Enemy reference…

    Comment by Rasheed — April 29, 2021 @ 5:09 am

  6. Against, and yet for, my better judgment, I have left incoherent people on the sidewalk and even in the street because I am scared to call the police on them. We need a solution.

    Comment by Djs — April 29, 2021 @ 10:28 am

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