Alameda agrees to pay $11M to son of man who died while police restrained him

The city of Alameda on Thursday agreed to pay $11 million to the son of Mario Gonzalez, who died after officers pinned him down and placed him face down on the ground for several minutes. 

In addition, the city also agreed to pay another $350,000 in a settlement with the 26-year-old's mother, Edith Arenales, who had filed a separate lawsuit. 

Gonzalez died after three officers struggled to restrain him in a prone position in April 2021.

The Alameda County coroner’s office ruled the death a homicide, and later said that Gonzalez died from methamphetamine along with stress from being restrained.

Attorneys for Gonzalez’s family commissioned their own autopsy, which found he died from restrained asphyxia. 

"This proves that Mario didn't die of methamphetamine," said civil rights attorney Julia Sherwin about the settlement. "Officers killed him. And little Mario should be proud that he vindicated his father's death."

Sherwin also said that the $11-million figure is the largest award in California paid to a child to settle an excessive force suit. 

While both parties agreed to the amount, Sherwin said United States Magistrate Judge Donna M. Ryu still needs to approve the settlement, which she expected.

In a statement, the city of Alameda said they remain "committed to full transparency" about the death, but they also agreed that the settlement should not be "construed as an admission by any party of liability." 

The deadly altercation began when Alameda police got a call on the non-emergency line about an intoxicated man walking around a small parklet in front of their homes.

Body camera footage showed one of the officers speaking to Gonzalez for nine minutes before he and two others restrained Gonzalez face-down on the ground for five minutes.

Gonzalez stopped breathing while being handcuffed and was later pronounced dead.

The body-worn camera video of the death sparked outrage and came amid national upheaval one year after the death of George Floyd.

In May 2022, the officers were cleared of any wrongdoing, as the city's independent administrative investigation into the death of the 26-year-old found the officers acted "consistent with department policies."

There were no sustained findings against the officers, who have since returned to work, and none of them were ever criminally charged. 

"Mario was a peaceful, calm person. He was a very mellow guy,"Mario Jr.'s mother, Andrea Cortez, said in a statement. "He adored our son and was a good father. The police should have known to use better tactics with Mario. He wasn’t hurting anyone and he was clearly confused. If they had rolled him on his side when the first officer said to, my son’s father might still be here."

Lisa Fernandez is a reporter for KTVU. Email Lisa at or call her at 510-874-0139.