The devastating story follows the plot of a modern-day Greek tragedy.
A loving father, John Deming Sr., who is also a nine-year police reserve officer with the Oakdale Police Department, is forced to come to grips with the sudden loss of a loved and admired young son, whose death on Sunday, July 5 came at the hands of police in Pleasanton.
Family spokesman, Ben Meiselas of the prominent law firm of Geragos and Geragos in Los Angeles, has described the circumstances surrounding 19-year-old John Deming Jr.’s death as “vague” with a number of conflicting accounts of what happened at a downtown car dealership at 2 a.m. that day and is assisting the family in its attempt for clarity and peace of mind.
Alarm Call At Exotic Car Dealership
According to a press release from the Pleasanton Police Department, officers responded to the report of a burglar alarm at Specialty Sales Classics on First Street in Pleasanton. When officers arrived they could see the young Deming inside the business through the dealership’s large windows. Officers ordered Deming to exit the building and he threw a large floor jack through one window, which landed on the sidewalk near the officers.
Police deployed a less-lethal bean bag round, but missed. Deming continued to refuse orders to exit and jumped from the tops of many cars inside the dealership while screaming. Deming retreated into a part of the business where he could no longer be seen through the front glass windows.
Pleasanton Police Lt. Jeff Bretzing said officers and a police canine entered the business and demanded that Deming cooperate. Several orders were given to Deming and he refused to comply. A Taser was then utilized which was ineffective and Deming fled. Officer Daniel Kunkel, an eight-year police veteran who has worked for Pleasanton for just over a year, was at the rear of the business and ordered Deming to stop as he exited. Upon his refusal, Officer Kunkel deployed his Taser, hitting Deming in the back, but having no effect.
According to the press release, Officer Kunkel chased Deming and Deming then turned and “aggressively charged” at Officer Kunkel. Deming kicked Officer Kunkel in the stomach and began punching him in the head, knocking him to the ground. Deming climbed on top of the officer and continued to repeatedly strike him in the face and head. Having hit his head on the concrete and also being struck in the head several times, the officer began to feel as if he was going to lose consciousness.
The release stated Officer Kunkel used his Taser again with a direct contact to Deming. There was no effect again and Officer Kunkel, in fear for his life, drew his pistol and fired one round into Deming’s torso area. Deming continued to strike the officer who then fired two additional rounds, striking Deming at least once in the face. The other officers who were on scene ran to that area and found Deming on the ground with Officer Kunkel lying unresponsive next to him.
Police said Deming continued to resist the officers as they handcuffed him and provided him medical aid. Officers tending to Kunkel were able to provide aid to him as he became responsive several seconds later. Deming was transported by the first ambulance that arrived and taken directly to Eden Trauma Center where he later succumbed to his gunshot wounds. Officer Kunkel was taken in a second ambulance to Valley Care Medical Center in Pleasanton and later released.
Lt. Bretzing said Officer Kunkel has been assigned to administrative leave, as standard policy in officer involved shootings. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Department and its crime lab assisted Pleasanton investigators in processing multiple scene locations and the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office is investigating the officer involved shooting portion of the case.
Incident Procedure And Follow-Up Investigation
“It’s the escalation protocol and the protocol that was used here,” said Meiselas, stating the family and he are both questioning if the best way to extract an obvious unarmed person was used in this incident. “It’s just wrong and doesn’t make sense.”
Deming Sr. also questions the police account of things.
“The statements by police to me of what happened, the timelines, the tactics, don’t make sense as a father or an officer,” Deming, Sr. said. “I have full support for law enforcement serving the community and doing their jobs, but not being out there like cowboys – you just don’t start shooting them with bean bags.”
Deming Sr. stated that time was on the officers’ side to deal with the situation.
On the day of the shooting, as Pleasanton Police continued to follow-up on the investigation, they served a search warrant 19 hours after the shooting at Deming Sr.’s wife Linda Stasi’s home in San Jose where Deming Jr. lived. Though a search warrant at a police shooting victim’s house in this type of case is standard for the investigation, the manner in which it was handled has the Deming family demanding an apology for what they are calling “the out-of-protocol and illegal raid on Stasi’s home where she (5’2, 105 pounds) was handcuffed and held at gun point while her home was being searched.”
Pleasanton Police declined to comment on why methods similar to a high-profile warrant service were used in this instance.
“You go there with sympathy and compassion,” said Deming Sr., “not guns and handcuffs.”
According to the search warrant, investigators were looking for drugs, electronic items and any documents that might have linked Deming to the car dealership he was suspected of burglarizing and “controlled substances likely to cause psychotic behavior.”
Meiselas, however, described the search as “a fishing expedition to find something to defame John Jr.’s character and defend their unlawful killing.”
Meiselas also said that when Stasi asked about her son she was not told of his death, but rather that he was “with the sheriff’s department.” It wasn’t until two hours later, after the search was complete, that she was told that her son had been killed by police.
Stating the incident was still under investigation, Lt. Bretzing on July 9 declined comment on what was recovered at the home or whether drugs were on Deming when he died. Toxicology results will take a few weeks.
“The investigation is ongoing and includes viewing of all video available,” Lt. Bretzing told The Leader.
Body Camera Inconsistencies
Deming Sr. said that after 9 p.m. on July 5, after his wife’s home had been searched, he was contacted by a sergeant with Pleasanton Police Department and informed of his son’s death.
Deming Sr. characterized the phone call as “one cop, to another cop” and was told that all the officers at the incident had issued Body Cams and that there was surveillance footage at the dealership.
“He told me they would ‘get to the bottom of this,’” Deming said.
Meiselas said that after Deming Sr. was told of the possibility of the incident being captured on police issued body cameras, different versions and conflicting quotes by the Pleasanton Police Department were made whether or not Officer Kunkel was wearing a camera or the incident was captured.
In a July 9 Bay Area News Group story about the incident Lt. Bretzing is quoted as saying, “All our officers are issued body cameras. I believe all officers on the scene, including Officer Kunkel, should have been wearing their body cameras.”
However in a quote the next day made to the local Pleasanton newspaper, The Pleasanton Weekly, Lt. Betzing stated, “No other officers witnessed the shooting, and security footage didn’t film the outside of the building.”
Lt. Betzing also told The Weekly the department had recently purchased body cameras for officers, but Kunkel hadn’t received one as of the incident.
Meiselas said he’s now being told Officer Kunkel had a body camera, but cannot receive word on what’s shown.
“I was told one thing, I read another in a press release, and then different information in news articles,” Deming Sr. said.
“Because these investigations are still pending, it would be inappropriate and unfair to all parties involved to comment further at this time,” said Detective Sergeant Kurt Schlehuber on July 13, when asked for clarification on the body camera discrepancy.
Behavior Out Of Character
Deming Sr. described his son as very outgoing and a musician in his church band who played football for, and recently graduated from, Piedmont Hills High in San Jose.
“I’ve never noticed any behavior that would have to lead to ‘we have to talk,’” said Deming Sr. “I’ve never known him to use drugs or be mixed up in a crowd that does.”
Deming said his son had never been arrested or had problems in school.
According to Meiselas, Pleasanton Police have been in Oakdale making contact with relatives and acquaintances of Deming as well as contacting attendees of a local barbeque Deming was at in Oakdale four weeks ago.
“They’re doing follow-up character assassination,” Meiselas said, adding that the firm has hired a private forensic pathologist to go over the autopsy results.
Deming said he is extremely grateful for the support he’s received from his peers at the Oakdale Police Department.
“Their support right now, their kind words have meant a lot to me,” Deming said while getting choked up. “I just can’t wrap my mind around all of this.”