Parents of teen killed by Pleasanton police file suit

The parents of a 19-year-old San Jose man who was fatally shot by a Pleasanton police officer during an alleged burglary at an auto dealership last month has filed a claim against police accusing them of making false statements about the incident and murdering their son.

The claim on behalf of John Deming Sr. and Linda Stasi for the death of John Deming Jr. at Specialty Sales Classics at 4321 First St. at about 2 a.m. on July was filed by high-profile Los Angeles attorney Mark Geragos and his colleague, Ben Meiselas.

The claim, which is the first step in a possible lawsuit, was filed against the city of Pleasanton, Police Chief David Spiller, Lt. Jeff Bretzing, Officer Daniel Kunkel and various unnamed officers.

It accuses them of wrongful death, false arrest, false imprisonment, violating John Deming Jr.’s civil liberties, negligent supervision and training, intentional infliction of emotional distress and other wrongs. It seeks unspecified damages.

Pleasanton police initially said the 19-year-old, who had recently graduated from Piedmont Hills High School in San Jose, where he was a football player, was found outside the dealership when police arrived at about 2 a.m. on July 5 but then issued a revised account that said he was inside but visible through the dealership’s large glass windows.

Police said Deming, who was unarmed and had no prior criminal record, was acting threateningly and erratically and threw a 50-pound floor jack through the window, which landed on the sidewalk near officers.

Police said officers fired at Deming with beanbag rounds but missed and he refused police commands to leave the dealership.

Police said Deming later fought Kunkel, knocking the officer to the ground and punching him repeatedly in the head.

Police said Kunkel twice used a Taser on Deming but that failed to subdue the teen, so Kunkel shot him once. But they said Deming continued to attack Kunkel and the officer finally shot Deming twice more, including once in the face.

The claim filed by Deming’s parents alleges that “John Jr. was murdered by Officer Kunkel” and says an autopsy conducted by independent pathologist Cyril Wecht, who has investigated many high-profile cases, found that the bullets fired by Kunkel “were at distances significantly at odds with the Pleasanton Police Department’s description of the incident, as PPD falsely described a close-range shot in connection with a physical altercation.” Wecht’s autopsy also found that there weren’t any Taser markings or offensive wounds on Deming, the claim says.

The filing also questions Kunkel’s mindset, saying he was “a trained assassin” in the Iraq War and “was exposed to great trauma.” The claim says Kunkel filed a claim against the Antioch Police Department, where he used to work, for emotional and mental stress but on March 26, 2014, “he was permitted to transfer to the Pleasanton Police Department and carry a gun.” Garagos and Meiselas allege, “Everything the Pleasanton Police Department has alleged to have taken place is false, contradicted by PPD’s own statements, contradicted by physical and forensic evidence independently obtained by the Deming family and covered up by PPD’s glaring omissions.” The claim also asks the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office to refer the case to the U.S. Department of Justice for an independent investigation.

District Attorney spokesman Teresa Drenick declined to comment on that request.

Lt. Bretzing, who was named in the claim, said it would be “inappropriate to comment on the claim at this time because Pleasanton police and the District Attorney are still investigating the shooting.

Kunkel, who was treated and released for the injuries he suffered during the incident, was placed on paid administrative leave immediately after the shooting but Bretzing declined to comment on his current status.