Jul 202013
 

The following note was left by San Leandro neighbor Tom Kunich as a comment to a previous article on the San Leandro Police Department.  I think his story deserves more prominent attention.  Ultimately, it’s the story of how the SLPD lost the trust of yet another San Leandro citizen.

handcuffedhandsOn Saturday July 6, 2013, I received a doorbell around 8 PM. I opened the door and it was a young Hispanic woman of perhaps 18 or so who asked to use my phone. I was reserved but let her in and let her use my phone making sure to lock the door. The person she called went to voicemail and she hung up. She was crying so I asked her what was happening and she said she went to visit her sister or girlfriend or some such that was difficult to understand because of the crying. She said that her sister’s boyfriend lived several houses down from me.

She said that he was there alone and demanded sex from her and when she refused he said that he was calling someone that would come over and beat her up. She believed this a credible threat so she ran down the street ringing doorbells and I was the only one to answer.

When she didn’t get an answer and explained to me I called 911 and gave them all of the pertinent information. The operator asked to talk to her and she told the same story over again.

While waiting, here I was lecturing her that in order to remain out of trouble she must avoid all people that are trouble. Only minutes later I discovered something a lot more frightening than that.

We waited approximately 10 minutes and the doorbell rang. Because of the threats to her I looked first through the peephole. There was no one within sight. So I walked around to my bedroom and looked out of the drawn curtain and there was no one on the porch. Fearing that someone might be coming around back or some such, since she had been threatened, I pulled my .38 revolver and took it out of it’s holster and looked out of several windows from drawn curtains until finally I saw an officer standing out in my driveway. His car was parked down the block in a position that wasn’t obvious.

I went over and opened the door with relief and told him he could come in. He saw me placing my pistol back in its holster and taking it back into my bedroom. Apparently he told me to stop and drop my gun from out in the driveway but I was too far away to hear him with the TV on and the young woman crying. I came back out and he was still standing outside so I went our to explain what was going on. I was wearing a T-shirt and pants and it was obvious that I didn’t have any sort of weapon on me. He drew his large caliber pistol and pointed it at my head from about a foot away. He demanded that I sit on the lawn until other officers appeared and then they HANDCUFFED ME!!! And made me sit out on the curb with all of the neighbors looking out and seeing the police leading me around in handcuffs. If they were so afraid that I might have a hidden weapon why didn’t they frisk me or even ask for an ID? This was done for one reason only – to give themselves time to ransack through my home looking for other possible weapons or drug or some such. And yet without a search warrant this was completely and totally illegal.

They angrily asked me where my gun was and I explained where I keep it. Three different officers asked me this same question and since I almost had to shout it through my anger, now half of the neighborhood knows where I keep my gun. Again the fact that I own a weapon is none of the police’s business in a case like this.

Several officers went into my house and the sergeant finally appeared and asked if he could check the serial number to assure it wasn’t stolen. Since the pistol is probably 100 years old I certainly don’t know how they would ever be able to assure themselves that it was registered to me. It might have belonged to my father since I can’t remember ever buying it. The pistol was patented over 100 years ago.

After perhaps 10 minutes or more they came out and released me and then started talking to the girl as an afterthought. As far as I know they didn’t even try to question the perpetrator of the threat.

This is my home and I have the right to have any legal weapon and brandish it as long as I do not threaten anyone save for legal protection. Not only did the police check my pistol but they, without permission, ransacked all of the drawers in the bureau, the closets in two rooms, the hallway closets and down into my garage. And left things in a mess and me so upset that I cannot go to sleep any more than an hour or two at night. They had no right whatsoever to ask for my pistol let alone look for more weapons. This was simply illegal. It was a criminal action committed by the police who are supposed to be trained to know what a criminal action is and so have no excuse.

The police were fully informed of the situation from the 911 call. They never once asked me for identification and treated me in this manner. They almost didn’t bother with the girl who was the subject of the entire episode.

Is this what happens when you attempt to do a good deed in San Leandro? I wonder what became of the neighbor who offered sanctuary to the women who escaped from ten years of imprisonment under Raul Castro. I suspect that the San Leandro Police would have beat him senseless with nightsticks and stuck a gun in his face and jailed him while looking the other way while claiming that there was no evidence to question Castro.

The actions of the police department of San Leandro were little more than that of a gang and they committed a criminal act against my person and property.

When I contacted the Chief of Police she turned it over to an assistant. After he heard my story what he essentially said was that once the police officer saw a gun he had free rein to do anything he and his gang members wished. This was entirely supported by the duty sergeant that was on the scene. The Chief’s assistant stated that I could lodge a formal complaint on a form if I wished and that he would send me one. He was polite but was nothing but another member of the gang. They have more than enough information to take this to a higher level and are accomplishing nothing more than a delaying tactic.

I have also contacted the San Leandro Mayors office and it was demoted to being “overseen” by the City Controller. I never heard from them again.

There needs to be major changes in the management of the police department and possibly the other city offices as well. Having a police force that believes that they are above the law cannot be allowed to stand.

Questions that come to my mind:

1. If the police had ANY reason to be worried about me in the first place they could have listened to the 911 recording. If they still had misgivings the single officer only had to wait a minute or so for the other cars to show up. Why did he ring the doorbell if he was frightened?

2. When I came out he acted as if he was frightened that I might have a gun on me still. If that was the case why even after handcuffing me was I never searched? The only reason has to be that because I was wearing a t-shirt and pants and it was obvious that I was unarmed and no threat. So WHY was I handcuffed?

3. Why was I never once asked to provide an ID? Obviously because I gave my name and address on the 911 call and was looked up.

4. Since I was outside of my home why did they not call the woman outside instead of illegally entering my home? Of what interest was my gun to the police? And why was my home illegally ransacked? Does anyone believe that after having a gun placed to my head and being handcuffed by little more than a gang that I should have refused them anything they were demanding?

5. Why was the man who provided safe haven and called 911 the person that suffered from this act of kindness and as far as I could tell the instigator of the threat left entirely alone?

6. Of what use at all is a 911 call system that results in this sort of police action? It is bad enough that it takes so long for police to arrive. In a serious case they could only arrive after any actions. Would I ever call such a so-called “service” again? A resounding NO! So why are we paying for it?

I do not know about the rest of this city but I do not want to pay my taxes to hire a police force that is so frightened that they act irrationally. This appears to be a matter for the state Attorney’s office to investigate since there’s no local actions equivalent to the seriousness of the crime.

And who am I? I am retired and living on Social Security. I was an engineer and scientist who spent the better part of my life developing medical instruments some of which may save your life some day. I’m a Vietnam Veteran.

Is this what you expect from San Leandro City officials and police?

  2 Responses to “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: SLPD Handcuffs Good Samaritan and Ransacks His Home”

  1. When we lived in town a pit bull charged at our dog from inside of a home. It came onto the sidewalk growling and barking. A police officer was present. When we asked what he was going to do about it, he said he didn’t see anything, which was a lie. Turned out, according to a neighbor, the officer was friends with the owner. We had been reporting off leash dogs because our dog had been bitten in the head by a pit bull. At that point I knew that the force was corrupt. Then there was the time when I saw a car speed down the street the wrong way through a stop sign on E 14th. The cops preferred, two of them, to listen to two friendly guys sort out a fender bender. I asked if they had seen the incident and got the female in my face yelling about whether I was telling her how to do her job. My impression of some of the force was, shall we say, not good.

  2. I read your story with an open mind. I’m sorry for the unpleasantness you experienced. I agree that no good deed goes unpunished, and that in your good faith effort to do the right thing, you ran afoul of the long arm of the law.

    Given the facts you state, the officer was within his rights to hold you at gunpoint, handcuff you, and frisk you for weapons (although he did not).

    What appears to be NOT appropriate and NOT justified was the warrantless search of your home which followed.

    You might want to think about an attorney. You could also contact CalGuns Foundation: http://www.calgunsfoundation.org/get-help/hotline/ or 800-556-2109.

    All of that said, I wanted to give an informed reaction to your questions.

    >> 1. If the police had ANY reason to be worried about me in the first place they could have listened to the 911 recording. If they still had misgivings the single officer only had to wait a minute or so for the other cars to show up. Why did he ring the doorbell if he was frightened?

    This is not how 911 works. The dispatcher takes the call and classifies it, such as “man with a gun” or “domestic violence” and then dispatches units to the call. Often the arriving officers discover a different situation than the call reported to 911. (For example, I have been on the wrong side of a “man with a gun” call and only found this out after twenty minutes of police interaction.) The officer may have initially rang the doorbell either to make peaceful contact, or for the safety of the person in your home; and then either gotten more information or reconsidered their action.

    >> 2. When I came out he acted as if he was frightened that I might have a gun on me still. If that was the case why even after handcuffing me was I never searched? The only reason has to be that because I was wearing a t-shirt and pants and it was obvious that I was unarmed and no threat. So WHY was I handcuffed?

    You were detained as part of an investigation into crime. This was perfectly lawful. You should have been frisked (_Terry v. Ohio_) and it is noteworthy that you were not. Perhaps the officer felt that it would be so obvious that you could not have a firearm that a frisk would be pointless.

    The police have no idea what they have been called into. Least hypothesis is that you are the abuser they have been summoned to arrest. So cuffing all potential suspects up while filling in the dance card is completely reasonable and an expected part of police work.

    >> 3. Why was I never once asked to provide an ID? Obviously because I gave my name and address on the 911 call and was looked up.

    The officers made an assumption. Police have to do this all the time; but they often get it wrong. This is one reason why a lawyer will tell you, “NEVER TALK TO POLICE.”

    >> 4. Since I was outside of my home why did they not call the woman outside instead of illegally entering my home? Of what interest was my gun to the police? And why was my home illegally ransacked? Does anyone believe that after having a gun placed to my head and being handcuffed by little more than a gang that I should have refused them anything they were demanding?

    There are four questions here, which I will call (A) through (D)

    4A) Tactical: entering a home creates a “fatal funnel” and all else equal should be avoided. However, there could be a second suspect and failing to search the home for additional person(s) might mean a dangerous surprise later. Legal: by having legal justification to enter the home, an “eyeball search” becomes appropriate, as is a search of any item within “lunge distance” which could conceal a weapon. (Note: ransacking is NOT appropriate.)

    4B) Brandishing a firearm except in self-defense is a crime, no matter where you do it. The police need to find out whether you brandished a firearm at the woman and/or whether you were the abuser. In the meantime, they are going to cuff you up and look for the gun. Also, police are increasingly mis-trained that possession of a firearm is strong evidence of being involved in criminal activity. This “gun-focus” is a phenomenon that numerous Californians (including myself) have been victims of … having the original crime or issue completely discarded in favor of pursuing criminal investigation of the person in possession of a legal firearm.

    4C) Your lawyer should ask the City of San Leandro to explain why its officers engaged in illegal conduct, preferably in the form of a check with numerous zeros printed on it.

    4D) This is one of the inconsistencies of our criminal justice system. You can _ALWAYS_ refuse consent to search as long as you do not physically interfere. However, police are extensively trained in tricking people into “voluntarily” giving up their rights and “consenting” to a search under what amounts to duress. This is again why lawyers counsel people, “DON’T TALK TO POLICE.”

    >> 5. Why was the man who provided safe haven and called 911 the person that suffered from this act of kindness and as far as I could tell the instigator of the threat left entirely alone?

    You were the one who called. So you are the one who gets the initial contact.

    You don’t have a right to know what the police did or did not do with the instigator of the threat. They may have arrested him and taken him to jail; let him go; or taken any other action they felt was appropriate.

    >> 6. Of what use at all is a 911 call system that results in this sort of police action? It is bad enough that it takes so long for police to arrive. In a serious case they could only arrive after any actions. Would I ever call such a so-called “service” again? A resounding NO! So why are we paying for it?

    That is a _REALLY GOOD QUESTION_ that as a taxpayer and a resident, you should seriously consider.

    Certainly as a resident and a taxpayer, you deserve better treatment than you received. Once it became clear that your actions were lawful and appropriate, you should have been thanked.

    The laws grant police wide discretion to investigate crime and make arrests. This discretion should be used responsibly and not abused. Treating everyone like a hardened criminal means that people will increasingly avoid cooperation and even contact with the police, leaving the police blind and the criminal element in charge of our streets.

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