The Texas Legislature has a significant piece of legislation pending before it calling for meaningful police reform. The failure to address the merits of the proposed Texas George Floyd Act will result in continued unjustified police misconduct, abuse, and homicides across the state.
Another civilian choke-hold killing by police in Antioch, California, provides an example of why the reforms sought in George Floyd legislation across the country are urgently needed.
Police Department With History of Abuse
Established in 1848, Antioch is one of the oldest communities in California. Sixty percent of the city’s roughly 105,000 people are people of color. Located in the East Bay Region of the San Francisco Bay area, the city’s police department has a history of heavy militarization, systemic racism, excessive force, failure to enforce body camera policies, and a range of other misconduct issues.
The head of the Antioch police union, Cpl. Steve Aiello recently posted on social media that a police officer is “100 percent justified” in slapping a protester who makes an offensive gesture toward the police. This post, and other actions taken by the police union, prompted one Antioch resident, Kevin McManimen, to tell the East Bay Times that “we have the president of the police union and officers in Antioch feeling like they can do anything without consequences.”
Aiello’s attitude seems to reflect the entire Antioch Police Department.
In 2019, the department hired a former San Francisco police officer named Michael Mellone, who was forced to resign from that department following the unjustified shooting of a homeless man five years ago. The Mellone hiring prompted citizen protests in Antioch this past September in the wake of the George Floyd murder by Minneapolis police in May 2020, highlighting the officer’s ability to avoid disciplinary action by switching police forces.
Man Killed with George Floyd Type Choke Hold
This past December, two days before Christmas, the sister of 30-year-old Navy veteran Angelo Quinto called 911 seeking assistance for her son, who was experiencing a mental health crisis in her residence. The Antioch Police Department responded to the call and would kill Quinto after applying an asphyxiation chokehold. The APD has not identified the officers involved in the killing. Quinto’s last words as they removed him from the bearhug his mother had on him to calm him down were, “please don’t kill m. Please don’t kill me.”
The Washington Post reported in a February 22, 2021 report that the responding police officers subdued Quinto by laying him face down on a hardwood floor in his mother’s bedroom with his hands handcuffed behind his back.
Quinto’s mother entered the bedroom to find the police huddled over her son’s body with blood running out of his mouth.
“What happened?” she could be heard in a video she made of the incident.
Man Killed by Asphyxiation Choke Hold
What happened was that the police knelt with a knee on Quinto’s neck, just as Officer Derek Chauvin did to George Floyd, for nearly five minutes. Quinto stopped breathing. The officers had him transported to a local hospital, where he died three days later.
The Quinto family has filed a legal claim with the Antioch Police Department charging that the responding officers “asphyxiated” their son because they did not, as the Post reported, “follow proper procedures in a mental health emergency.”
The police department has refused to make any public statement about the Quinto homicide. It took the department one month to even acknowledge Quinto’s death. The Antioch district attorney’s office and Sheriff’s Department are “investigating” this police homicide.
The Quinto family has secured an attorney’s services to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the police department.
George Floyd’s last memorable words included “I can’t breathe” sixteen times. He also begged Officer Chauvin, “don’t kill me.”
Navy Veteran Begs Police “Please Don’t Kill Me”
Angelo Quinto also begged the officer pressing the knee on his neck, “please don’t kill me, please don’t kill me.”
How many more times must American citizens hear their fellow citizens beg the police not to kill them or “I can’t breathe” before state legislatures enact the kind of reforms spelled out in the George Floyd Act currently pending in the Texas Legislature?
License to Kill
Unfortunately, there are too many police officers in this country, most strongly supported by police unions, who feel that they have an unrestricted license to kill people, especially people of color, as they see fit and under any circumstances they choose.
Progress Possible in Texas
Unjustified police homicides must stop – and real progress is now possible in Texas. Texas House Representative Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) has introduced HB 88, the Texas George Floyd Act, with just that in mind.
The George Floyd Act aims to de-escalate situations involving police officers and civilians and hold officers accountable for excessive force. Among other needed reforms, the bill would ban chokeholds, require officers to intervene or de-escalate situations involving excessive force, end arrests for fine-only offenses, and take away qualified immunity – which shields government officials from legal action.
The Texas George Floyd Act is a real opportunity for police to regain public trust and keep rogue police officers off the streets. If Texas legislators fail to enact the George Floyd Act, they will be complicit in future police abuses and unjustified police homicides in the Lone Star State.