Tuesday, November 3, 2009
"The department turned its back on him." Mrs. Gunn
Sgt. Neil Gunn Sr.
Photo courtesy the Gunn family
Southern California -- this just in
Wife of Burbank officer blames department for his suicide
November 3, 2009 1:38 pm
The family of a Burbank police sergeant who took his own life last week blamed the police chief and other department and city officials for his death, saying he was the victim of retaliation for defending fellow officers who had been falsely accused of wrongdoing.
Neil Thomas Gunn Sr., 50, was one of a dozen current or former Burbank officers who had their records subpoenaed by a federal grand jury in connection with an FBI investigation into excessive force at the department.
But Tina Gunn described her husband as a hard-working cop who cared deeply for the department and said the police brass and the union failed to support him against unfounded use-of-force allegations, effectively ruining his career and leaving him "brokenhearted."
"They had everything to do with what happened," she told The Times in a phone interview today. "My husband felt that no matter what he did, he was going to be the fall guy because he was the one who spoke out. He took [the allegations] very hard. They are trying to portray my husband as something he was not. He was a good man. He was beyond clean. The department turned its back on him."
City Atty. Dennis Barlow said he maintains "the greatest concern and respect for the Gunn family."
"My heart goes out to them at this time of their tragic loss," he said.
He added that he did not know what the three independent investigations into the department would find, noting he would examine the results of those reviews when they are completed.
A 22-year veteran of the department, Gunn Sr. grew up in Highland Park and followed his older brother, now retired from the department, into policing. His son Neil Jr. is currently a Burbank police officer. Gunn Sr. rose through the ranks, working gang and narcotics units before being promoted to sergeant of the department's elite special enforcement detail.
Earlier this year, five officers filed suit against the Burbank Police Department, alleging discrimination and retaliation. Gunn Sr. was expected to be a witness for the officers. But last month the FBI acknowledged that several of those officers -- and others who subsequently sued the department -- were being investigated in connection with excessive-force allegations.
Gunn Sr. was named in a subpoena of records presented to Burbank officials about a month ago, requesting information on a dozen current and former officers.
The subpoena specified information related to "use of force, defensive tactics, Tasers, pepper spray, or the rules and ramifications pertaining to the use of excessive force or a violation of civil/constitutional rights."
In addition, FBI agents sought Burbank police internal affairs investigations initiated in response to use-of-force complaints from 2003 to the present.
The FBI acknowledged last month that the agency was looking into possible civil rights violations by Burbank police officers but would not comment on specifics being examined by its civil rights division or on how long the probe would last.
Tina Gunn, who works in the Burbank city manager's office, said the family, who will attended a City Council meeting tonight, believes her husband was singled out when he defended one of his colleagues at a police union meeting. He returned from summer vacation in Scotland to learn he had been placed on administrative leave.
Last week, he shot himself to death after parking his car in a residential neighborhood in Burbank.
-- Andrew Blankstein
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FROM BURBANK, CALIFORNIA BLOG
November 3, 2009
It’s not just the Chief
We’re getting a big kick out of listening to Burbank defenders claim that the city was just shocked, shocked to discover potential BPD wrongdoing last spring, and all they’re doing now is just trying to clean up the mess.
Talk about denial and stupidity. Never forget that whatever the FBI and the Sheriff’s Department ends up concluding, these alleged derogatory behaviors were the official working policy of the City of Burbank, and were sanctioned if not actually formulated by the civilian higher-ups.
That means thing like the Brute Squad, or Internal Affairs shenanigans, or retaliatory disciplinary acts, or any of a hundred-and-one bad ideas were ultimately not just the responsibility of the civilian overseers, but quite often their original ideas in the first place.
Although Chief Stehr deserves a good amount of the blame here, he wasn’t the first in line. He has power, certainly, but the ultimate authority rests with both the city attorney and city manager’s office. Make no mistake, Stehr doesn’t do anything without their clearance and assistance. They tell him what to do and how. And they have been in on everything.
So who is the major culprit here? All fingers point to Dennis Barlow and his people. They have been the key Burbank strategists all along, and none of them can claim that they are new to the job, either, as can Stehr and Flad.
Many times here we have documented Barlow’s habitual cynicism and dishonesty. Nothing that comes out of his office is above board. And there isn’t a night where he doesn’t totally lie through his teeth to the city council about one thing or another, either– such as his recent claim that he had no knowledge of the prosecution of Kevin Muldoon for alleged film permit violations (!) Barlow and Scott have been aware of these questionable BPD policies from the beginning and they have given them their stamp of approval.
But our Burbank city council-majority is stupid, and with but a few exceptions throughout the years they have always been criminally naive as well. So they are not going to figure out that their key advisors are all knaves and crooks and liars, and if they do they certainly won’t admit it to anyone.
Let’s get something out of the way here, too. No one is blameless in this situation. No one is a clear hero. For Barlow, Flad and Stehr to have encouraged these alleged BPD behaviors for as long as they did is bad enough. But for all of them to turn around last spring and try to scapegoat and frame these lower-level police employees for doing what they were always told to do as part of their job, and only when it became politically expedient for them to do so, is positively evil. Among everything else this is their major ethical culpability, and we suspect it is one of the things that led to Sgt. Gunn’s action.
So, are we only going to blame the most convenient target in the end? The real troublemakers in Burbank are the people who haven’t been wearing the uniforms. All of them must leave within the next few months. Every single one of them down to the last, because this creepy and incestuous Burbank “family” needs to be gutted.
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TONIGHT'S BURBANK CITY COUNCIL MEETING
Burbank councilman calls out police chief
Written by Jason Wells
November 3, 2009 at 7:16 pm
Burbank City Councilman David Gordon tonight called on his colleagues to direct the city manager to place Police Chief Tim Stehr on administrative leave.
Citing the recent public shooting suicide of police Sgt. Neil Thomas Gunn, who was named in an FBI probe into police misconduct along with several other officers, Gordon said the City Council had a “moral and legal responsibility” to place Stehr on leave until multiple investigations were concluded.
“The stress and tension in our PD has understandably become toxic,” Gordon said. “We cannot close our eyes our cover our ears to what is going on.”
His comments were met with applause from a chamber packed with Burbank police officers.
Stehr’s ”actions and inactions” have pushed the Police Department “to the brink of disaster,” said Burbank Police Lt. Omar Rodriquez, who along with Gunn and several other officers have sued the department based on various claims of discrimination and work and sexual harassment.
As of 7:15 p.m., the City Council had taken no formal action on the administrative leave proposal, with City Atty. Dennis Barlow questioning the legality of Gordon’s request.
The rest of the City Council appeared ready to put the matter on a future agenda for discussion, but made clear they had no intention of declaring an emergency order.
Councilman Dave Golonski called the request “grandstanding,” and Councilwoman Anja Reinke said the move was hasty.
“I think it’s a little vigilante to be honest,” she said.
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VIDEO OF TONIGHT'S BURBANK CITY COUNCIL MEETING
Part 1 of 5
Part 2 of 5
Part 3 of 5
Part 4 of 5
Part 5 of 5
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Chris Topolovich, Sgt. Neil Gunn's brother, talks to the media next to Officer Neil Gunn, Jr. and other family members and friends following a Burbank City Council meeting on Tuesday, November 3, 2009. (Roger Wilson/News-Press)
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Neil T. Gunn Funeral Services
The funeral arrangements for Sergeant Neil Gunn are as follows:
Wednesday, November 4, 2009, 1700 – 2100 hours
Forest Lawn – Hollywood Hills, 6300 Forest Lawn Drive, Los Angeles
Viewing room location is still to be determined and will be announced at a later time
Thursday, November 5, 2009, 1100 hours
Shepherd of the Hills Church, 19700 Rinaldi Street, Porter Ranch
Thursday, November 5, 2009, 1300 hours
Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills, 6300 Forest Lawn Drive, Los Angeles
“Enduring Faith,” Section #59
May the Lord Jesus Christ give grace and comfort to the Gunn family during this tragic and painful time.
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Burbank Police Sergeant in FBI Probe Killed