City releases transcript of murder victim’s call to police

Berkeley has released a transcript of a call made by Peter Cukor to BPD on Feb 18, shortly before he was murdered outside his home on Park Gate in the Park Hills neighborhood of Berkeley. Photo: Tracey Taylor

City officials on Tuesday released a transcript of Peter Cukor’s Feb. 18 non-emergency call to police, and in it he asks for police to come “right away” to deal with Daniel Jordan DeWitt, who allegedly killed him about 15 minutes later.

The two-page transcript, however, does not reveal what, if any, level of urgency Cukor conveyed in his voice.

Cukor and his wife Andrea first encountered DeWitt when they returned to their home on Park Gate in the Berkeley hills around 8:30 pm on Feb. 18. DeWitt was hanging around their driveway. Cukor asked DeWitt to leave and then called police at 8:45 pm on a non-emergency number to report that a stranger was lingering nearby:

“Cukor: “Yes, there is a gentleman, a young man hanging around my property. I think he is a transient. I’m not sure.
Dispatch: What is the address sir?
Cukor: 2 Park Gate Berkeley
Dispatch: And he is just standing around there?
Cukor: Yeah. He says that he lives here. He wants to come in which is very strange. I’d like an officer up here right away.”


Police did not immediately respond to the call since dispatchers labeled it a “Priority 2” call, meaning there was no crime in progress or life-threatening emergency. Police were gathering at that time to talk about an Occupy Oakland march that was expected to come to Berkeley that night and had decided to only respond to Priority 1 calls.

About 15 minutes later, Andrea Cukor called 911 to report that a man was bludgeoning Cukor with a ceramic planter in their driveway. Police immediately responded, but Cukor was already unconscious and in cardiac arrest after they arrived, according to a fire department report released to Berkeleyside Tuesday in response to a Public Records Request. Officals tried to resuscitate him, but he died later that night.

Police arrested DeWitt around 9:22 pm. Officers found him, covered in blood, just a few blocks from the Cukor’s house.

DeWitt was charged with murder, but an Alameda County judge ruled last week that he was not mentally competent to stand trial. DeWitt was diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was 18 and has been in and out of mental institutions since then. His parents have said they tried to get him long-term care but could not get him forcibly committed.

Transcript from Peter Cukor’s Feb. 18, 8:45 pm call to the non-emergency line of the Berkeley Police Department:

Mr Cukor: “Yes there is a gentleman a young man hanging around my property. I think he is a transient. I’m not sure.
D: What is the address sir?
C: 2 Park Gate Berkeley.
D: And he is just standing around there?
C: Yeah. He says that he lives here. He wants to come in which is very strange. I’d like an officer up here right away.
D: Sure. What race is he?
C: African American
D: He’s a black male. How old does he look?
C: I’d say he’s in his 20s.
D: How tall is he?
C: About 6’4”.
D: Is he small, medium or heavy build?
C: Medium.
D: What’s the color of his shirt or jacket?
C: He’s wearing a dark color hoodie.
D: And the color of his pants?
C: Well they’re dark I believe.
D: So he’s just standing there stating he lives there?
C: He’s looking for someone named Zooey. He’s pretty spacey.
D: Oh, okay.
C: Now Park Gate is just right at the fire station.
D: Sure.
C: My driveway is just before you get to the fountains.
D: Okay, may I have —
C: It’s not on Park Street, it’s on Shasta  just before you get to the fountains [unintelligible].
D: And may I have your name sir?
C: Peter last name spelled CUKOR.
D: And your phone number please.
C: 841-XXXX
D: Okay, we’ll try to get somebody out there as soon as we can.
C: Thank you.
D: Thank you. Bye-bye.

Related:
Suspect not competent to stand trial in Cukor murder [03.22.12]
Community gathers in wake of murder: quizzes Berkeley police [03.09.12]

Berkeley police: We responded properly to Cukor’s murder [03.02.12]
Councilmember calls public meeting after Berkeley murder [02.29.12]
Murder suspect trial delayed for psychological assessment [02.24.12]
Murder suspect was looking for fictional girlfriend [02.23.12]
Councilmember: unanswered questions over murder [02.23.12]
Alleged killer had been in and out of mental institutions [02.21.12]
Berkeley hills neighbors react with shock to brutal murder [02.20.12]
Intruder assaults, kills homeowner on Grizzly Peak [02.19.12]