SACRAMENTO, Calif — The man who died after trespassing in the Golden 1 Center in 2019 was killed after a security guard kneeled on his neck for 4 minutes as law enforcement attempted to arrest him, a lawsuit filed Tuesday claims.
The wrongful death lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of the family of Mario Matthews, 39, the man killed in the July 2, 2019 incident, says that security guards and Sacramento police officers used excessive force when they tried to arrest Matthews for trespassing.
"There was no active threat to anybody," said Stewart Katz, the attorney representing Matthews' family in the lawsuit. "There was not even the appearance of a threat."
The family is suing, among others, the city of Sacramento, three security guards, and Universal Protection Services, which, in California operates under the name Allied Universal Security Professionals. City spokesperson Tim Swanson said "the city has received the lawsuit and is in the process of evaluating it as well as the appropriate next steps."
Officials with Allied Universal Security Professionals insisted that Matthews refused to comply with demands to leave the Golden 1 Center, so guards detained him until police arrived.
"[Matthews] continued to actively resist efforts to restrain him until he was taken into custody by Sacramento Police," the company said in a statement. "Due to the pending litigation involving this incident, we are unable to provide additional comment at this time."
Surveillance and Sacramento police body camera footage released last year following the incident show Matthews opening a side door to the Golden 1 Center, run on the Sacramento Kings' basketball court, and walk around inside the arena before being approached by security guards in a hallway.
Multiple security guards are seen holding Matthews on the ground until police officers arrive. Minutes later, after Matthews was heard screaming and panting, he was motionless on the floor.
One Sacramento police officer noticed Matthews was bleeding from his mouth and asked a security guard if Matthews bit himself. The security guard responded, "No, we took him down pretty hard."
Katz said it was that hard takedown coupled with a security guard allegedly put his knee in Matthews neck for more than four minutes that lead to his death.
"Absolutely that was the cause of his death," Katz said emphatically. "He weighed 125 pounds, and at times as many as four people — three security officers and a Sacramento Police Department officer — were on top of him. He was bleeding. He had bruises."
The lawsuit comes weeks after the police killing of George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis officer kneeled on his neck for eight minutes until he was unconscious. Floyd's death was caught on cell phone video and sparked worldwide protests demanding police reform.
Katz said the family is seeking financial damages in this case as well as assurances all law enforcement received better training.
"The other issue that this case raises is how shockingly untrained uniformed security guards are that give the illusion of having some expertise," Katz said. "The illusion that they know what they’re doing when they don't."
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