Following questions raised about the police response in the Saturday night slaying of Berkeley hills man by a trespasser, Berkeley police today, Monday, said they were unable to comply with the resident's initial, non-emergency request for help because available officers were needed to monitor a protest march.
Also today, Alameda Patch reported that the suspect arrested in the case, Daniel Jordan Dewitt, 23, of Alameda, is the grandson of the late Al DeWitt, an Alameda civic leader and former city councilman who also served as vice mayor and acting mayor.
The Berkeley resident who was killed had called police to report a "strange person on his property" and asked for an officer to respond, police said. After the call, the man was fatally attacked by the intruder outside his home on Park Gate Road between Tilden Park and the intersection of Shasta Road and Grizzly Peak Boulevard in the Berkeley hills, according to police.
Police did respond immediately to a second, "attack in progress" call from the home and arrested Dewitt less than a block away, police said.
After the initial police reports of the crime, the San Francisco Chronicle quoted unidentified sources about the earlier call and what happened immediately afterward:
"The victim had called police on a nonemergency line after first seeing Dewitt, according to sources familiar with the case," the paper said. "But police were busy monitoring an Occupy Oakland march to UC Berkeley, and officers were dispatched only to high-priority calls."
The newspaper also quoted sources saying "an officer who noticed the call about Dewitt on his computer told a dispatcher he would respond, but was told not to go."
The Berkeley police statement today, from Lt. Andrew Greenwood, said:
"BPD received a report of a suspicious person possibly trespassing. The caller calmly reported an encounter with a strange person on his property, and asked for an officer to respond. This call for service was queued for dispatch.
"At that time, available Patrol teams were being reconfigured in order to monitor a protest 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.
"BPD subsequently received a call of an attack in progress on Park Gate Rd. Officers were immediately dispatched to that call."
In providing the additional information, Greenwood noted that coverage of the killing had "generated a number of questions."
Police have not released the name of the victim. The Chronicle said public records and neighbors indicated that the owner of the home was Peter Cukor, 67, who owned a logistics consulting firm.
A police news release Sunday about the crime noted the earlier call from the home reporting "a suspicious person/trespassing suspect near the garage." It said a man and a wife spotted the intruder on returning home.
Al DeWitt, who died of stomach cancer in 2003, was the first African-American to serve on Alameda's City Council, according to Alameda Patch. He served nine years on the city council, including his roles as councilman, vice mayor and acting mayor.
Daniel Dewitt's mother, Candy Dewitt, told the Chronicle that her son had a history of mental illness.
He is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday.