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Pleasanton police say officer who shot 19-year-old acted 'in fear for his life'

Family of victim hires L.A. law firm, contending fatal shooting wasn't justified

Pleasanton police said the officer who fatally shot a 19-year-old early Sunday outside a downtown antique and classics car agency acted in self-defense during a struggle, "fearing for his life."

John Patrick Deming Jr., a San Jose resident and a recent graduate of Piedmont Hills High School, was apprehended after police spotted him inside Specialty Sales Classics at 4321 First St. around 2 a.m. Deming was the son of an Oakdale reserve police officer.

Deming's family has hired a celebrity attorney to contend that the fatal shooting wasn't justified.

Police Lieutenant Jeff Bretzing said officers at the scene told Deming to leave the business, but he ignored their commands and jumped from car to car, screaming. He then jumped off a car and ran to the back of the business, where officers couldn't see him.

While inside, Deming threw a large floor jack through a front glass window, which landed about 10 feet away from the officers. Officers fired non-lethal beanbag rounds at him, but they missed, Bretzing said.

Pleasanton police then went inside the car agency and found Deming sitting on top of a car. When he refused their orders to come down, Bretzing said they fired more non-lethal rounds. Livermore police was called for backup and arrived after the incident.

Deming then ran toward the back of the agency as police released a police dog to capture him. But before the dog reached him, Deming ran out a broken window in the back of the business, which is how police believe he got inside the car showroom in the first place.

Pleasanton police officer Daniel Kunkel was there and ordered him to stop. When he kept running, Kunkel fired a Taser weapon at Deming, hitting him in the back.

Deming kept running, with Kunkel chasing him while also calling other officers to block Deming's escape.

Suddenly, according to Bretzing, Deming turned around and charged at Kunkel, kicking the officer in the stomach, punching him in the head and knocking him to the ground.

According to Bretzing, Deming climbed on top of Kunkel and kept hitting him in the face and head. The officer felt like he was going to lose consciousness, Bretzing said, and he fired at Deming with his Taser again.

"As the Taser deployment once again failed to stop Deming's attack, Officer Kunkel, in fear for his life, drew his pistol from his holster and fired one round into Deming's torso area," Bretzing said. "Deming continued to strike the officer who then fired two additional rounds, striking Deming at least once in the face."

Other officers ran toward the sound of gunshots and found Kunkel unconscious on the ground. They grabbed Deming, who continued to resist, and handcuffed him. They got him into an ambulance, which took him to Eden Trauma Center, where he died.

Kunkel, who has been an officer for eight years and was an officer in Antioch before joining the Pleasanton Police Department, was treated for his injuries and is on administrative leave while the investigation continues, Bretzing said.

No other officers witnessed the shooting, and security footage didn't film the outside of the building, he said. Bretzing said the department had recently purchased body cameras for officers, but Kunkel hadn't received one as of the incident.

Bretzing said there is no indication Kunkel had been in any other incidents during his time at the department or previously.

Bretzing said the last time an officer-involved shooting happened in Pleasanton was 2005, and the last time a fatal officer-involved shooting happened was 2000.

He said his department felt it was important to give an extensive account of the incident.

"We work hard to be as transparent as we can be because we have a lot of trust and support from the community," Bretzing said.

The Alameda County District Attorney's Office is also conducting its own investigation, which Pleasanton police stated is normal in cases of an officer-involved shooting.

Bretzing said an autopsy and a toxicology screen will be done, but he didn't know when those reports would be completed.

Deming's family has hired celebrity lawyers Mark Geragos and Ben Meiselas of Geragos & Geragos to contend that the fatal shooting wasn't justified. The lawyers said Deming was an aspiring musician who was a member of his church band. The firm said Deming had never been arrested or in serious trouble before.

"My son Johnathon has always been a kind, loving, well-mannered and talented young man who respected others, loved music and had a boundless thirst for life," said father John Deming Sr. "Johnathon was fun, helpful and outgoing, he always did the right thing. He valued his friends and family and put others first. I will miss him every moment of every day."

Geragos, with an office in Los Angeles, has represented celebrity clients such as Michael Jackson, Winona Ryder and Chris Brown.

The Deming family has also alleged they were mistreated by Pleasanton officers who came to investigate after their son's death.

The family alleges in a media statement officers obtained a search warrant, detained and handcuffed Deming's mother Linda in her backyard at gunpoint.

Officers searched the home and took electronic devices, the family alleges.

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