The Alameda County District Attorney's Office has determined a Pleasanton police officer acted in lawful self-defense when he shot and killed a San Jose teen during an altercation in downtown Pleasanton last summer, and the officer will not face criminal charges, the Pleasanton Police Department announced late Monday afternoon.
John Deming Jr., 19, was fatally shot by Officer Daniel Kunkel in the early morning hours of July 5 after Deming allegedly charged the officer, who was responding to a burglar alarm at Specialty Sales Classics car dealership at 4321 First St.
"The evidence shows that Officer Kunkel believed that lethal force was necessary because he believed he was about to lose consciousness as a result of Mr. Deming Jr.'s ongoing attacks," concluded deputy district attorney Kevin Wong, "which would lead to the loss of retention of his firearm and ultimately his death."
The full District Attorney's Office report, completed Feb. 17 and obtained by the Pleasanton Weekly late Monday, shows a picture of an incident that started when Deming tripped a burglary alarm at the dealership, acted erratically and violently, and ignored repeated demands to comply with officers, which ultimately lead to a fatal altercation with Kunkel outside.
The 45-page report includes interviews with Pleasanton and Livermore officers, a few bystanders who heard the fatal shots, a summary of body camera footage from some officers and an overview of an Alameda County Coroner's Bureau autopsy. The Pleasanton Weekly has also obtained and reviewed that full autopsy.
At 2:01 a.m. on July 5, Deming tripped the motion-detection alarm at Specialty Sales Classics and answered the phone when the alarm company called to check on the situation, according to the report.
Security footage allegedly showed him walking through the dealership with a bandana over his face and a guitar slung over his shoulder, rummaging through an office and a car before answering the phone.
Before Pleasanton police arrived on scene, security footage allegedly showed Deming driving a metal pole into the wall of the dealership. He then took a Sharpie and wrote "Confront me in peace. I have much to teach" on the roof of a car and "Hope & humanity has failed" on a bathroom mirror.
When police arrived, they saw a back window had been broken. Officers gathered outside the front of the business, where they could see Deming inside through the glass showroom windows.
Deming put up his middle fingers at the officers, who ordered Deming to show his hands.
Officers said he appeared "agitated" and said he was "a mountain lion," so officers started to get "the 'wrap' ready to detain him," referring to a straightjacket. One officer said they may have a "5150," police code for a mental health incident.
Deming then took a large car jack and threw it at the window toward officers, but it bounced away, according to officer interviews and a security footage summary. He then took a second jack and threw it at the window, which shattered, and the jack landed a few feet away from the officers.
Deming retreated to the roof of a pickup truck, and officers surrounded him. At one point, Deming hung from the showroom rafters above the car.
A Pleasanton police officer, holding a police dog, ordered Deming to get off the car "or you're going to get bit."
He told the officer, "I have nothing. I mean you no harm," according to the summary of one officer's body camera footage.
One officer tried to shoot him with a Taser, but it didn't shock him, and Deming picked up the charge and flicked it off his jacket. A second Taser was fired, and Deming grabbed his stomach but stood up. A beanbag round was fired as Deming jumped of the car and ran toward the back of the business.
The police dog was released, but it confused another officer for Deming and had to be commanded not to attack.
Outside, Deming stopped "three feet" away from Kunkel, who ordered him to stop.
Deming started running again, and Kunkel tried to fire his Taser, which was on safe mode. Kunkel got his Taser working again and fired a charge at Deming's back, shocking him, but he kept running.
While chasing Deming through the parking lot, Kunkel heard him say "are you going to Tase me?" or "don't Tase me."
Deming then ran at Kunkel and did a martial arts-style jump-kick, knocking Kunkel down, according to Kunkel's interview. Deming then punched Kunkel in the face several times. Kunkel said he felt he was losing consciousness and would be disarmed and killed by Deming.
Kunkel thrust his Taser into Deming's forehead, at which point Kunkel grabbed his gun and fired three rounds "at point-blank range," according to the report.
"He did not know if the gunshot was a contact shot or taken from a couple feet away," the report stated.
Two bullets hit Deming in the face and abdomen, and he rolled off Kunkel.
The shooting isn't recorded Kunkel didn't turn on his department-issued body camera, claiming he "was too busy focusing on the burglary" and "the device commonly doesn't work."
After the shooting, an officer tried to put Deming in handcuffs, but he resisted. Another officer had the police dog bite Deming so officers could restrain him, and EMTs took him to Eden Medical Center, where he died.
Kunkel said his hamstrings were injured was recorded saying "Sergeant, I tried, but why did he have to do that?" and said "I'm so happy I'm alive."
Two officers told Kunkel "not to say anything right now."
Ben Meiselas, of the Los Angeles-based law firm Geragos & Geragos hired by the Deming family, said the report leaves many questions unanswered.
"We consider this a deeply flawed and whitewashed report that is a recitation of police reports, rather than the thorough investigation that the Deming family and the community demanded," he said. "There are deeply alarming and troubling aspects of the report."
He pointed out that both a county autopsy and a third-party autopsy done by a pathologist hired by the Deming family found no drugs in Deming's system.
He also contested the distance at which Deming was shot, saying neither autopsy found gunpowder residue or tell-tale "tattooing" or skin puckering consistent with a contact shot.
Forensic anthropologist Michael Warren, of the University of Florida C.A. Pound Human Identification Laboratory, looked at the Alameda County autopsy at the request of the Pleasanton Weekly. He said gunpowder residue or skin stippling or "tattooing" would be expected if an individual was shot within a few feet.
"I don't see any description of that," said Warren, who often works with pathologists on cases and was an EMT for 15 years. "My guess is it's not a contact wound or a close range wound -- that he was shot from a distance of several feet."
The Geragos & Geragos firm planned to file a civil suit in Alameda County Superior Court later this week, Meiselas said.
Pleasanton police Lt. Jeff Bretzing stated in a press conference two days after the shooting that Kunkel acted "in fear for his life" because Deming, undeterred by Taser strikes, was beating the officer near unconsciousness.
"We respect the findings of the District Attorney's report, and I want to express our deepest condolences to the family of Mr. Deming Jr. I also want to communicate support for Officer Kunkel and his family through this time," Pleasanton police chief Dave Spiller said in a statement.
Deming's family argued that fatal force wasn't necessary and disputed the version of events presented publicly by Pleasanton police, alleging there were inconsistencies about where police initially found Deming, whether Kunkel was wearing a body camera, the extent of Kunkel's injuries and other allegations.
The DA's Office, which took the lead on the incident investigation under the county's protocol for officer-involved shootings, determined case evidence supported the conclusion that Kunkel "acted under the actual and reasonable belief that Mr. Deming Jr. posed a threat of death or great bodily injury to him," according to Monday's statement from Pleasanton police.
Kunkel was diagnosed with a concussion, bruises to his face and muscle strain in both his legs. He remained on paid administrative leave during the length of the investigation.
Spiller said Kunkel will remain on leave related to a work-related injury but will return to the department once he's recovered.
He also said the department does not intend to release body camera or security footage.
"Some of it is graphic, and out of respect for the Deming family and our own officers, we're not intending to release it," he said.
DA's Office spokeswoman Teresa Drenick declined to provide comment aside from the report.
In their statement announcing the DA's findings Monday, Pleasanton police said, "We hope that with the investigation complete and the final report released, the healing process can begin for the Deming family, the officers involved in the incident, and our community."
The Deming family filed a wrongful death claim against the Pleasanton Police Department in August and asked at that time that the case be handed over to the U.S. Department of Justice for investigation.
The police union, the Pleasanton Police Officers' Association, did not respond to a request for comment by press time.