Councilmember wants investigation on intruder call

February 21, 2012 12:22:57 AM PST
A father is broken-hearted and angry after a crime that has stunned a Berkeley hills neighborhood. That man's son is accused of beating a well-liked businessman to death at his home.

A Berkeley councilmember is calling for an investigation into how police handled that call and the suspect's father is apologizing to the victim's family.

Monday night, two Berkeley police officers met with the murder suspect's parents at their home in Alameda. The police didn't talk, but the suspect's father wanted to get something off his chest.

"I wanted to apologize or say I'm sorry to the family involved, to the victim and his family. I'm truly, truly sorry," said Al DeWitt, the suspect's father.

Daniel Jordan DeWitt, 23, described by his father as a paranoid schizophrenic, is in jail for the murder of a 67-year-old Berkeley hills resident identified by neighbors as Peter Cukor. Police say the man was beaten with a flower pot Saturday night at his home at Grizzly Peak Boulevard and Shasta Road. Al calls the case a failure of the mental health system.

"They drug them and let them go again. In and out of the hospital and that's the problem my son had. He could never get stabilized on any drug because they take him in and let him out and take him in and let him out," said Al.

Berkeley Councilmember Susan Wengraf, who represents the neighborhood had known the victim for years.

"He was a very kind man, a very accomplished man. The whole thing is very shocking to me, but he is no longer with us," said Wengraf.

She is calling for an investigation into the police response. Police say the first call from the home came in on a non-emergency line, reporting a man trespassing. The next one was a 911 emergency call after the attack. Berkeley police say at the time they had reconfigured patrols to deal with an Occupy Oakland protest that was heading toward Berkeley.

A police statement says, "Only criminal, in- progress emergency calls were to be dispatched due to the reduction in officers available to handle calls for service."

Councilmember Wengraf wants to see the timeline.

"I think it's something we have to look into. I think allocation of our resources is a really important issue and that's why I've asked for the information," said Wengraf.

Police say officers were immediately dispatched after the 911 call. La says his son lives in Oakland and that he tried to see him last Saturday, but the son would not come out of his room. Al says his son has been off his medication since July.

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