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.
On 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?