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.