Tag Archives: Peter Cukor

Spotlight on city manager’s response to Chief Meehan

Christine Daniel, interim city manger
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While eyes across the country are focused on Berkeley’s City Hall to see how it responds to Police Chief Michael Meehan’s attempts to get a reporter to change his story, the eyes at City Hall are all focused on Interim City Manager Christine Daniel.

With just a six-month contract that is due to expire in May, the way Daniel handles the Meehan matter may play a large role in whether she gets the job permanently.

Daniel learned on Friday March 9 that Chief Meehan had sent Sgt. Mary Kusmiss to the house of Oakland Tribune reporter Doug Oakley at 12:45 am that day to ask that he change a story on a community meeting about Peter Cukor’s murder. But Daniel did not issue a statement on the matter until around 2:20 pm March 10, hours after the story garnered significant airtime and play in regional publications.

And since then, Daniel has been quiet. … Continue reading »

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Few comments on Chief Meehan before Council session

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Expectations that many members of the Berkeley community would turn up at the public comment part of a closed session of the City Council Monday night to express their views on the recent incident concerning Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan were not met.

Fewer than 20 people showed up at City Hall, and only a handful spoke ahead of a meeting called to discuss the appointment of a new city planning director and ongoing labor negotiations for city employees, including the police.

Chief Meehan’s self-described error of judgement in sending an officer to an Oakland Tribune reporter’s home in the early hours of Friday March 9 to demand changes to a story was not on the agenda. … Continue reading »

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Questions remain about Berkeley police chief’s actions

Chief Michael Meehan, and Officer Byron White at community meeting on Cukor incident. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Update 2:10 pm: Statement from Berkeley Police Association added below.

A contrite Berkeley police chief spent Saturday afternoon fielding calls from the media to explain why he ordered a sergeant to go the house of a reporter at 12:45 a.m. on Friday to ask for changes in an article the chief thought was inaccurate.

Chief Michael Meehan profusely apologized for his actions, but declined to provide specifics about the incident.

“I was in the wrong,” Chief Meehan said. “It could have, and should have waited until the morning. It was a significant error of judgment on my part.”

To regain the trust of the press, Chief Meehan will order “an independent review of the Department’s policies and practices regarding release of information to the media,” he said in a statement. He wants the Berkeley Police Department to look at the best media policies of other police departments around the country and adopt them. … Continue reading »

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At 12:45 a.m., police chief demands reporter make changes

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Update 2:30 pm. City officials respond to incident:

Statement from Interim City Manager Christine Daniel:

I take this situation very seriously. We understand and appreciate the depth of response to this incident.  The value of the free press in our society is fundamental to who we are as a people. Our organization deeply values our relationship with the media, and individual reporters, and we know that our community depends on the media for information about important events in Berkeley.

The Police Chief has apologized directly to the reporter involved and expressed his sincere regret for his actions on Thursday night.  There was no justification for contacting the reporter in this way and the Chief understands that the more appropriate response to his concerns about inaccurate statements in the article should have been to wait until the following day and make contact by phone or email. The Chief has acknowledged his lapse in judgment and assured me that nothing like this will happen again. … Continue reading »

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Community gathers after murder, quizzes Berkeley police

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An estimated 150-200 people turned out on Thursday evening to Northbrae Community Church on The Alameda in north Berkeley to ask the Berkeley Police Department about their response to the Feb. 18 murder of Park Hills resident Peter Cukor.

There was a palpable sense of anxiety in the room as the meeting got under way and a significant media presence, with several TV crews as well as print and digital journalists in attendance.

When Councilmember Susan Wengraf opened by saying questions would be taken on written cards, there were shouts of dismay and hostile accusations leveled by several members of the audience.

However, once the meeting progressed, the mood became calmer and there were even moments of levity. Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan received several rounds of applause from an audience that generally skewed towards the over-50s. … Continue reading »

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Live coverage: Berkeley community meeting after murder

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[View the story “March 8 Berkeley community meeting in wake of Peter Cukor homicide” on Storify]

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Berkeley shows big decline in violent and property crime

Police car on Marin
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Total crime was down in Berkeley last year by 14%, a result that councilmembers hailed as “great news” when the annual crime report was presented at last night’s City Council meeting.

Violent crime fell 9%, from 531 crimes in 2010 to 482 in 2011. Property crime fell 15%, from 5,941 to 5,071. Only the small number of arsons increased, from 23 to 25, and auto theft was up 5%.

Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan said that it was not yet possible to compare Berkeley’s results with other cities, but the reduction from 2009 to 2010 had been twice the state and national average.

Asked about the reasons for the encouraging results, Meehan said that academic studies had shown the only consistent factors in crime reduction were “adequate police resources and focused police strategies”. The Berkeley police, he said, worked to “specific and measurable goals”, which had been exceeded in 2011. … Continue reading »

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Police: We responded properly to Cukor’s murder

Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan:
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Berkeley police have reviewed the agency’s actions on the night Peter Cukor was murdered and do not believe they took any missteps, Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan said Thursday.

But media reports have created the inaccurate impression that police ignored an emergency call from Cukor because they were too busy monitoring an Occupy march.

That was the message that Chief Meehan and some of his top staff delivered to Berkeleyside on Thursday afternoon in a wide-ranging interview that lasted more than an hour. … Continue reading »

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Councilwoman calls meeting after Berkeley murder

Park Gate, scene of the Feb. 18 murder of Peter Cukor
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Councilmember Susan Wengraf (District 6) has called a town hall meeting to discuss public safety in the wake of the Feb. 18 murder of Peter Cukor outside his home in north Berkeley. Police Chief Michael Meehan and City Manager Christine Daniel will both be in attendance, as will a supervising dispatcher, and BPD Area Coordinator Officer Byron White.

In a communication to her constituents, Wengraf wrote that she was saddened and disturbed by the murder. “The circumstances surrounding the incident have raised many concerns about safety and police protection. I have talked to some of you personally and others by email. However, given the nature of the incident, I think that a public meeting where you all have an opportunity to voice your concerns and get answers to your questions directly from the Police Chief would be in the best interests of our community.” … Continue reading »

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Murder trial delayed for psychological assessment

Daniel DeWitt, charged with felony murder and use of a deadly weapon. Photo: KTVU
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Judge Sandra Bean yesterday delayed the trial of homicide suspect Daniel Jordan DeWitt so that two doctors could assess him for mental competence under section 1368 of the California Penal Code.

On Wednesday, DeWitt was charged with felony murder and use of a deadly weapon in the killing of Peter Cukor outside his home in the Berkeley hills on Feb 18. Yesterday, Dewitt’s lawyer, Brian Bloom, asked the court for a delay so that DeWitt’s competence to stand trial could be assessed.

Cukor and his wife Andrea Cukor returned home around 8:45 pm on the night of Feb. 18 and saw DeWitt loitering in their garage. Peter Cukor told DeWitt to leave, went inside the house, then came out again and was attacked, according to BPD. A ceramic planter was allegedly used in the attack.

Al DeWitt Jr., DeWitt’s father, said his son was diagnosed five years ago with paranoid schizophrenia and has been in mental health facilities at least nine times. … Continue reading »

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Murder suspect was looking for fictional girlfriend

KTVU broadcast this image of Daniel Jordan Dewitt
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The mentally ill 23-year old man who is accused of killing Peter Cukor Saturday night entered into the 57-year old’s home in search of a fictional girlfriend.

Daniel Jordon DeWitt walked through a gate toward Cukor’s front door and said “he was a psychic and was told to go through the front gate to find Zoey,” according to court documents.

Zoey is DeWitt’s fictional girlfriend and does not exist, according to a family friend who asked not to be named.

DeWitt, who lives in Oakland, will return to Alameda County Court today to enter a plea. The District Attorney’s office alleges that Dewitt killed Cukor with a ceramic planter around 9 pm on February 18. … Continue reading »

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Councilmember: Unanswered questions over murder

Park Gate in Berkeley: The scene of the murder on the evening of Feb. 18 of Peter Cukor. Photo: Tracey Taylor
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Update, 4:32 pm: Murder suspect Daniel DeWitt did not enter a plea this afternoon at his arraignment in Alameda County Superior Court, according to an updated report by Henry Lee in the Chronicle. His father, Al DeWitt Jr., confirmed the person his son described as his fiancée, Zoey, does not exist. Daniel DeWitt was diagnosed five years ago with paranoid schizophrenia and has a pending misdemeanor battery case for an incident last year.

Original story: Berkeley City Councilmember Susan Wengraf is to meet with Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan to seek answers to what she says are still unanswered questions over the police response to the Feb. 18 killing of Peter Cukor, 67, outside his home at Park Gate in the north Berkeley hills.

In particular, Wengraf says she wants to understand more clearly the prioritization of non-emergency calls by BPD and larger protocol issues about how calls to the police from the community are handled.

BDP did not respond to a non-emergency call placed by Cukor at approximately 8:45 pm on Feb. 18. because patrol teams had been reconfigured to monitor an Occupy protest march which was coming into Berkeley from Oakland. The first of several BPD officers arrived at the scene within five minutes of a subsequent 911 call by Cukor’s wife, which was placed at 9:02 pm, after the murder suspect had begun to assault Cukor. … Continue reading »

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Alleged killer had been in and out of mental institutions

KTVU broadcast this image of Daniel Jordan Dewitt
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Update: 5:25 pm: The Berkeley Police Department released the following updated and additional information regarding the February 18 homicide at around 5:00pm today. BPD identifies the victim as Peter Cukor, and includes a statement from BPD Chief Michael Meehan:

“Several published and on-line reports relied on a single account of an inaccurate chronology of this incident. Please note below the actual timelines of the initial stages of this case.

At approximately 8:45 PM, BPD received a report of a suspicious person possibly trespassing. The caller reported an encounter with an unknown person “hanging around” his property, and asked that an officer be sent to investigate. This call for service was queued for dispatch.

At that time, available Patrol teams were being reconfigured in order to monitor a protest march which was to come into Berkeley from Oakland in the next hour. Only criminal, in-progress emergency calls were to be dispatched, due to the reduction in officers available to handle calls for service. Concerns about the potential for violence associated with the march resulted in plans to allocate officers to monitor the march.

At approximately 9:00 PM, an officer, seeing several pending calls for service, including two “suspicious circumstances”, offered to respond to either of the calls. The officer’s offer was declined, as only in-progress emergency calls were to be dispatched.  … Continue reading »

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