Colin Kaepernick has not stopped fighting against those social injustices that he initially took a knee for in 2016 as a member of the San Francisco 49ers. His days of making impact plays at quarterback are a distant memory, but he is making an even bigger impact in society.
Colin Kaepernick Launches New Initiative
In 2021, Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp organization launched his Autopsy Initiative, which is centered on providing second autopsies for people who have been killed by the police or while in police custody. The idea came to him to start the initiative after the family of George Floyd hired two independent pathologists. Their reports contradicted the county medical examiner’s autopsy report that stated, it revealed “no physical findings to support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation.”
Kaepernick mentioned that three main reasons behind his initiative are: the bias that could arise in state issued reports, the use of faulty forensics, and the significant financial burden can place on friends and family of the deceased typically ranges between $10,000-$15,000. He plans to fund his nonprofit through charitable donations. He realizes that this is a team effort, so his longtime girlfriend Nessa Diab and attorney Ben Meiselas are helping.
A 73-year-old unarmed man with dementia was shot five times and killed by the Bakersfield Police. He had a crucifix in his pocket. His name was Francisco Serna. This is #KillingCounty pic.twitter.com/yuEfUxjKAF
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) February 5, 2023
Assembling the Team
Kaepernick hired Nicole Martin in August 2021 to become the initiative’s legal program director and its first full-time employee. She noticed the level of diligence Kaepernick had when he would sit in on interview calls to make sure that the people hired are the right fit for what he is trying to do. Martin is a graduate of UC Riverside and devoted her senior thesis to analyzing the connection between race and police brutality. That caught the attention of Kaepernick during the interview process, and he knew she would be a perfect fit.
Roger Mitchell was the next hire for the former NFL star. He served as the chair of pathology at Howard University and accepted the invitation to join panel of board-certified forensic pathologists. A Feb. 7 Sports Illustrated feature on Kaepernick’s project described how Mitchell also was a huge fan of the former QB for his athletic achievements and social justice work he has done off the field.
Mitchell told Sports Illustrated, “Subsidizing autopsies for those who died in connection with the criminal legal system, that doesn’t exist anywhere else.”
Who Was Gilbert Gonzalo Gil?
SI also described one of the first cases the Autopsy Initiative took on.
Jennifer Schmidt’s father Gilbert Gonzalo Gil was a 67-year-old man that was found dead in his jail cell in February 2022 at Vista Detention Center near San Diego, California, 16 hours after he was booked. He was arrested for being under the influence of a controlled substance after a family member called 911 for help when he showed signs of erratic behavior that stemmed from complications of his hyperglycemia and dementia.
The cause of death explained to Schmidt by San Diego Sheriff’s Department, the statement begins with “pending laboratory results and further explanation,” Gil had tested positive for COVID-19 and there were traces of methamphetamine in his system.
The 41-year-old daughter didn’t believe the statement and start to do her own research. After visiting the county crematorium days later and viewing his body, she noticed a “big, red mark” stretching from his forehead to his hair. She knew she couldn’t afford for an independent pathologist to do their own examination and that’s when she seen a news segment on television about Kaepernick’s organization.
She filled out the form on their website but wasn’t expecting much of it. She thought they would only take bigger and higher profile cases. Her father’s case became the seventh the project accepted. The second autopsy’s ruling was Gil had died of asphyxiation, not drug use, and Schmidt went on to file a legal claim against San Diego County last August.
In case anyone’s forgotten, the murder of Tyre Nichols by Memphis police officers is why Colin Kaepernick took a knee.
— Lance Cooper (@lmauricecpr) January 28, 2023
The program has helped over 42 families to date, SI reports, and the biggest lawsuit filed because of their efforts was for $100 million by the family of 23-year-old Robert Adams against the city of San Bernardino, California.