Editorial: Pleasanton Police Department's unwarranted silence unacceptable | Pressing Issues | Gina Channell-Allen | PleasantonWeekly.com |

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Editorial: Pleasanton Police Department's unwarranted silence unacceptable

Uploaded: Oct 1, 2015
It has been almost three months since 19-year-old San Jose resident John Deming Jr. was shot and killed by Pleasanton Police Officer Daniel Kunkel outside an auto dealership in Pleasanton.
And for almost three months we have been asking for answers, and we are frustrated with the police department's unwarranted and continued silence.
According to the Pleasanton Police Department, Deming broke into the dealership and was acting erratically, and then was shot and killed while assaulting Officer Kunkel in the early-morning hours July 5. The family's attorneys contest the department's version of events based on alleged inconsistencies in the department's statements.
The Deming family's law firm, Los Angeles-based Geragos & Geragos, cites a statement made to Pleasanton Weekly reporter Meredith Bauer by Pleasanton Police Lt. Jeff Bretzing as one of those inconsistencies. After a press conference July 7, Bauer asked Bretzing if Kunkel was wearing a body camera, and Bretzing said Kunkel was not.
The San Jose Mercury News published an online article the same day that stated: "Bretzing would not say whether Kunkel was wearing a camera. 'All are (sic) officers are issued body cameras,' (Bretzing) said. 'I believe all officers on the scene, including Officer Kunkel, should have been wearing their body cameras.'"
After seeing the Mercury News' account, our reporter contacted Bretzing to get clarification, and was met with a response that the PPD would not answer any questions about the officer-involved shooting until the Alameda County District Attorney's investigation is released. According to DA's Office spokesperson Teresa Drenick, there is "no timeline for its completion."
We have made several attempts to obtain a definitive statement from the Pleasanton police and the city attorney as to whether Kunkel was wearing an operating body camera at the time of the shooting.
City Attorney Jonathan Lowell told the Weekly, "Now that a claim has been filed, I have directed city personnel not to comment because this is a pending litigation matter, and the proper place for it to be adjudicated is in the courtroom."
Pleasanton Police Chief David Spiller said, "It would be inappropriate and unfair to all parties for me to comment on this matter before the pending investigations have been completed. When the District Attorney finishes the investigation and releases the independent report, most of your questions should be answered."
Lowell and Spiller miss the fact that the public has a right to know the basic facts of the incident, regardless of whether a civil lawsuit has been filed by the family. The department provided two conflicting answers to reporters' questions about whether Officer Kunkel was wearing an operating body camera immediately after the shooting. They now have the responsibility and obligation to correct the record.
Just as the department released a summary of what it believes occurred between Deming and Kunkel that night, there is no justification for failing to make a clear statement about the body camera, and whether video evidence may be available to shed greater light on the actions of John Deming Jr. and Officer Daniel Kunkel.
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Comments

 +   6 people like this
Posted by Michael Austin, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on Oct 1, 2015 at 4:25 pm

Michael Austin is a registered user.

Until the Alameda County Coroner releases the autopsy report, we do not know if it was a gun shot that killed the burglar.

Maybe cause of death is something other then gun shot.

Unless Gina, you have seen the autopsy report or the County Coroner had a conversation with you and confirmed it was a gun shot that killed the burglar?

I was not aware of the discrepancy regarding body camera activity.
Your question regarding body camera activity can and should be answered by Chief Spiller.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Damon, a resident of Foothill Knolls,
on Oct 2, 2015 at 8:17 am

"And for almost three months we have been asking for answers, and we are frustrated with the police department's unwarranted and continued silence."

Well, I don't blame the PPD for clamming up because they already got burned once by prematurely saying something when they didn't have all their facts in. That's why lawyers generally advise their clients to say "no comment" to questions. If you say "no comment", you always have the option of providing an answer later, but if you've already given an answer and it turns out to be incorrect then it looks really awkward and the conspiracy theorists all start to come out.

I am disappointed by the amount of time it's take to complete the toxicology tests and autopsy. Seems that three months is enough time to fully complete both.


 +   11 people like this
Posted by BobB, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Oct 2, 2015 at 10:47 am

@Damon,

"Well, I don't blame the PPD for clamming up because they already got burned once by prematurely saying something when they didn't have all their facts in. "

Okay, so do you blame them for "prematurely saying something when they didn't have all their facts in. "?

"but if you've already given an answer and it turns out to be incorrect then it looks really awkward"

Yes, especially when it is something as serious as this.


 +   21 people like this
Posted by Derek Barker, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Oct 2, 2015 at 8:09 pm

PPD was very eager to have their statement printed, knowing dead boys can't defend themselves. Too bad they don't have a video because their story is hard to believe.


 +   11 people like this
Posted by You know better, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Oct 2, 2015 at 10:11 pm

This editorial is inflammatory and the author knows it. Once there is an investigation there is a limit on what the government entity can say. They don't want to "try" the cas in the media. The defense can say anything they want and make any assertions they choose. The burden of proof is on the police and the district attorney. AND the police must protect the privacy of all concerned. Hopefully this will get sorted out in a court of law.

One thing is certain, the young adult was some place he should not have been in the middle of the night. With all the the defense is throwing at the PPD, they have not explained why the young man was in the closed facility. I think that much of this is to get people to focus on outrage against the police without addressing the fact that none of this would have happened if head not entered the business, if he had stopped when they asked, or even kept running instead of confronting the officer.

We' really don't know all the facts and this editorial does not do service to the process.


 +   24 people like this
Posted by BobB, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Oct 2, 2015 at 11:13 pm

"one of this would have happened if head not entered the business, if he had stopped when they asked, or even kept running instead of confronting the officer."

If he actually did any of that. We don't know anything at this point, other than what the police tell us.


 +   20 people like this
Posted by Ron, a resident of Country Fair,
on Oct 3, 2015 at 8:10 am

The unarmed boy was nineteen, a teenager. Without a video there is no proof that he attacked the officer. There are too many examples of police filing false statements to cover up excessive force to not question the police side of the story. Perhaps the Mayor can explain why our officer are not required to wear body cameras. In 2014 the White House task force on police reform recommended that all officers wear body cameras and provided funding. Other cities have implemented body cameras.


 +   15 people like this
Posted by Derek Barker, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Oct 3, 2015 at 9:43 am

Michael, are you judge and jury? This unarmed teenager has two bullets in his chest and one in his head, he will never have the opportunity to go to court to determine if he was committing a burglary. There must be intent or it is not burglary. I think the security video will show he was sitting on a car singing. It seems that he was agitated and confused, not intent on committing a crime.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Damon, a resident of Foothill Knolls,
on Oct 3, 2015 at 10:19 am

@Derek Barker : "I think the security video will show he was sitting on a car singing."

You're spouting nonsense. You weren't there and you have absolutely no basis for making such a claim.


 +   18 people like this
Posted by DJohns, a resident of Downtown,
on Oct 3, 2015 at 10:58 am

DJohns is a registered user.

Thanks to the PW staff for clarifying that you share the same frustration many of us feel, as well as a determination to provide the public with answers. I have felt that PW coverage has been biased in favor of the PPD, so it is ironic that this explanation receives accusations of being in the Garregos camp.

The audio is the only credible fact that is currently available to the public; it gives a lot of insight to what went wrong in responding to a unarmed disturbed individual. It also creates a lot of questions.

The police statement is one side of the story, but without that video that officer Kunkel was supposed to be wearing, we have no proof of what happened after Deming was chased out of the window.

PPD is a good department. I would like answers, but more I would like to hear from PPD what will be different in the future.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Pedal Power, a resident of Danville,
on Oct 3, 2015 at 11:30 am

Thank you for a well written article. I see no reason for the lack of transparency on the particular issue of whether or not Kunkel was cammed up.

Conflicting body camera-wearing statements could be readily explainable if the SJ Mercury inquiry was made before the press conference. For example Bretzing may not have known whether or Kunkel was wearing a body camera, when he responded to the SJ Mercury inquiry, but had subsequently checked and established that he wasn't.

Of course wearing a body cam is only the start, having it functioning is entirely different matter and, over the years, we will hear the following reasons/excuses and more: low battery, full memory card, "forgot to turn it on", "turned it off while I took a leak" etc. And that only addresses whether it is recording. Then we have obstructed views, for example a strategic blob of cream cheese or a scarf, and then we have the captured images being lost - the cat ate my memory card etc. to which real time cloud memory capture is about the only credible solution. And how well is that going to work in a metal elevator. Sigh.


 +   16 people like this
Posted by Derek Barker, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Oct 3, 2015 at 11:49 am

Damon / Jason
An early report suggested John was sitting on a car singing. The point of this thread is the lack of transparency leaves us to speculate.


 +   13 people like this
Posted by Damon, a resident of Foothill Knolls,
on Oct 3, 2015 at 12:52 pm

@Derek Barker : "Damon / Jason An early report suggested John was sitting on a car singing."

No, I read the early news reports on the Deming case (and apparently read them more carefully than you did). There were no early news reports of John Deming "sitting on a car singing". Sitting on a car, yes. Sitting on a car singing, no. There was, however, a frequent poster here who was claiming that John Deming was sitting on a car singing while eating from a "box of cheese". That's probably where you got your John Deming "sitting on a car singing" idea.

The bottom line?: You were unable to keep clear in your mind the difference between reported news facts and an unsupported claim by some anonymous poster - oh, and you forgot about the "box of cheese" part, too. A good demonstration of how "facts" can get embellished and distorted in a case like this.


 +   13 people like this
Posted by Mike, a resident of California Reflections,
on Oct 3, 2015 at 1:34 pm

Damon you criticize and attack posters but you contribute so little. You ranted that Deming was on drugs but refused to acknowledge your irresponsible comments. You promised to step out of the conversation but then posted as Jason. You have no credibility.


 +   14 people like this
Posted by Michael Austin, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on Oct 3, 2015 at 4:22 pm

Michael Austin is a registered user.

@Derek Barker:

Have you seen the autopsy report?
You claim by way of your comment that you know the cause of death.

Geragos & Geragos Law Firm ordered an independent autopsy. Geragos & Geragos have not released the cause of death from their independent autopsy.

So, Derek Barker what is your source of expertise?


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Sparky, a resident of Amador Estates,
on Oct 4, 2015 at 7:45 pm

Gina...if you are in fact a twenty plus year media veteran I would assume you would understand the City will not comment on pending cases. Why would they! To appease you? Not likely. Just shut your mouth and let the process continue...after all...as we are all innocent until proven guilty..so is Officer Kunkle. I hope your not the typical SF Bay are media troll that is only worried about inciting the public to encourage weak city officials to produce statements prematurely. Know your role


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Derek Barker, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Oct 5, 2015 at 5:16 pm

The previous comment is ignorant and not worthy of response.


 +   8 people like this
Posted by BobB, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Oct 7, 2015 at 12:31 pm

BobB is a registered user.

In face of criticism, police officials preaching are de-escalation tactics.

Web Link

It is sad to think that this young man could still be alive today if the officer had undergone this type of training.

"Indeed, Price said the Leesburg training sessions were met with some initial resistance among some officers, including combat veterans."

Certainly relevant in this case.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by StopAndThink, a resident of another community,
on Oct 13, 2015 at 4:37 pm

While the loss of a young life is always a tragedy, some of the comments -- and the original article -- are way off base.

Body cameras: PPD had just started issuing cameras to patrol officers. Most officers had not yet been trained or authorized to use. Easy to see the press officer's confusion. I spoke with an officer on a call in our neighborhood. He didn't have one.

"Conflicting statements" Anyone ever involved in a significant investigation knows that some initial reports will be proven in error. But, as the author suggests, you can't wait until the completion of an investigation to say something... especially when a lack of info can spike fear in a community.

De-escalation - Supervisors had called for mutual aid. A lot of time passed asking Deming to surrender. Kunkel was an individual officer on a perimeter. Deming charged past, then attacked Kunkel, who was briefly knocked unconscious. Though shot, Deming fought other officers too.

Deming was burglarizing and vandalizing at 1 a.m., far from home. Something was "off" with him. What should the police do, just follow him until he breaks into the house of sleeping citizen?

Sure there are some details missing. Maybe some training will change. But Ofc Kunkel did what he had to do. Cameras or no, the big picture is clear.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by BobB, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Oct 19, 2015 at 7:52 pm

"Deming was burglarizing and vandalizing at 1 a.m.,"

Your assumption. You are only hearing one side of the story.

"But Ofc Kunkel did what he had to do. "

Again your assumption. For all we know Kunkel lost control, experienced a flash-back, who knows?


 +   7 people like this
Posted by Cantbelieveit, a resident of Amador Estates,
on Oct 31, 2015 at 3:01 pm

" Just shut your mouth and let the process continue"

That has to bethe stupidest comment ever directed to a member of the press. It would be pretty much the end of the media if they all just shut their mouth and waited for the process especially when the process might not be finished for years.

Transparency is the key to accountability. It's not a good thing when organisations and governments operate in the shadows.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by pleasanton was nice forty years ago, a resident of Castlewood,
on Nov 7, 2015 at 8:22 am

how many officers were present at the perimeter and how was it setup? Is 22 seconds enough time to climb out a broken window run from the police, be tased, turn and confront and assault the police and be shot three times? How is it no other officer witnessed any of that? Where did the police dog disappear too? These are questions and they should be answered. The fact the ppd has not answered any of these is concerning. The fact that the pw has not to my knowledge asked any of these questions is laughable. Its a real simple formula. If you want answers ask questions.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Michael Austin, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on Nov 7, 2015 at 8:48 am

Michael Austin is a registered user.

Pleasanton was nice forty years ago:

What part of "And for almost three months we have ben asking for answers, and we are frustrated with the police department unwarranted and continued silence".

....is it that you did not understand?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Formerly Dan from BC, a resident of Bridle Creek,
on Nov 7, 2015 at 9:42 am

Formerly Dan from BC is a registered user.

Since this article was written, it's now 4 months and still nothing about the autopsy.

Gina,

Perhaps a follow-up is in order?


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by pleasanton was nice forty years ago, a resident of Castlewood,
on Nov 7, 2015 at 11:32 am

@ M Austin You take them at their word. I don't, what part of that don't you understand. I dont think the pw has done a very good job of investigating this. I base that on the changing postion of the pw. You have made it clear you support the police version without having all the facts. Your bias is showing. How do you know kunkle did not shoot him for no reason? How do you know it was justified? I do not think you are an objective thinker. I think you have had an agenda from the start. The police were justified that has been your position so please explain to me how many officers were present at the scene and how was the perimeter set up?
Let Gina respond to my question directed at the PW. Have they asked these questions? and if so they have me to thank for raising he points to begin with.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Michael Austin, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on Nov 7, 2015 at 7:13 pm

Michael Austin is a registered user.

@ pleasanton was nice forty years ago:

I support the Pleasanton Police Department, period!
I am a contributor to the Pleasanton Police officers Association. I have met chief Spiller, and have had conversations with him and many of his officers and staff over the years.

In my opinion, they are the absolute best Police Department. Pleasanton is fortunate to have such a fine police department protecting all of us.

I have never said the incident with Deming was justified. I have never commented on the circumstances surrounding the Deming incident, other than to state "Deming was a burglar".

The Alameda County Coroner has never released the cause of Deming's death.

The Deming law firm by way of its actions with litigation has effectively muzzled the police department through instruction of the Pleasanton City Attorney. This allows the Deming law firm to run at the mouth with their version of the incident, in order to excite the likes of you.

Your ramblings on this subject on this forum and other subjects on this forum indicate a profound paranoia on your part.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Formerly Dan from BC, a resident of Bridle Creek,
on Dec 10, 2015 at 6:51 pm

Formerly Dan from BC is a registered user.

Gina,

It is now 5 months...no word yet?

Dan


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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