During investigation Antioch mayor visits crime scene of shooter incident, posts photos, and information not yet released to public

Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe’s comments about the Friday night incident and crime scene photos he posted on his official Facebook page on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021.

Former mayors and council members said they had never done that; Thorpe accused of “grandstanding”; Councilman Barbanica was asked if he wanted to tour it too but declined

By Allen Payton

While the media and public continued to wait for additional information about Friday’s almost seven-hour standoff with a shooter that ended in his death, on Saturday, Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe, who is facing a potential recall, toured the crime scene where the incident occurred, and the shooter’s house burned. The mayor passed inside the yellow police line and took photos of the scene. Thorpe later published them on his official Facebook page along with information about the incident that Interim Antioch Police Chief Tony Morefield shared with him but had yet to be released to the public either by Morefield or the City’s Public Information Officer (PIO) Rolando Bonilla.

The media has been asking and waiting for any updates to the incident since it ended about 7:30 p.m.Friday, to provide to the public, including this reporter who had been pressing for it on Friday, Saturday night and Sunday morning. The only information shared with the media was during a hastily called meeting after the incident was over, at which an officer spoke to the on-scene media. But neither the Antioch Police Department nor Bonilla would share that same information with the media that didn’t make it there within the seven minutes between the time the announcement posted on the APD social media accounts and when it was to occur. Since Friday night, Bonilla has consistently told the Herald and other media, “As this is an on-going investigation, there is nothing more to report at this time. As soon as more information becomes available, it will be released.”

APD Statement to On-Scene Media

It was learned on Sunday that on their Facebook page, ABC7 News posted a video of the statement provided to the on-scene media by APD Officer Darryl Saffold in which he said, “When officers arrived on scene, it was confirmed the suspect was armed with a rifle actively shooting at cars and houses. The suspect also shot down a police drone while residents were ordered to shelter in place and evacuated from the area. SWAT responded and over the course of several hours the suspect continued to shoot his rifle inside the house and outside at the direction of officers and other residents. Around 7:07 pm, the suspect appeared to have set fire to the inside of his garage that soon engulfed the house where he exited the house and was contacted by SWAT officers. After making contact with officers, they fired their weapons and the suspect was struck. Medical aid was rendered and the suspect was deemed deceased at the scene. As a result of the officer involved shooting, Contra Costa County law enforcement protocol was enacted.”

Barbanica Declines Invite to Tour Crime Scene

District 2 Councilman Mike Barbanica, a retired Pittsburg Police lieutenant, said he and his wife, who live nearby, stopped by the scene on Saturday and offered an officer on guard something to eat or drink, “knowing they have to be there for hours and having done that, before, myself.”

“I saw the mayor was there, inside the yellow police tape,” Barbanica continued. “The officer asked if I, too wanted to tour the crime scene. I told him ‘no’.” Then he and his wife left the area, the councilman added.

Asked for information he had learned from Morefield, Barbanica said, “the chief said everything will be released through Rolando.”

Thorpe’s Facebook Comments

In his Facebook post, Thorpe wrote, “Yesterday, the Antioch Police Department was involved in a 7 hour standoff with an individual shooting a rifle. Throughout the incident, Interim Chief Morefield kept me and my colleagues abreast of all matters.

Today, Chief Morefield provided me a detailed briefing and I had the opportunity survey the scene. Please note, this area is still closed to the public, please stay away until further notice. This matter is an active investigation so my comments are limited.

While an unusual situation, please know that yesterday’s standoff was extremely dangerous for everyone especially police officers. We are very fortunate that no one else was seriously hurt or lost their life.

I want to express my appreciation to the women and men of the Antioch Police Department for their exceptional work last night as well as the other law enforcement agencies who provided mutual assistance like Bentwood, Oakley, Pittsburg, Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Dept, FBI and others.”

Former Antioch Mayors and Council Members Respond

Asked if she had ever toured an active crime scene during her terms on the Antioch City Council, former mayor Mary Rocha said, “No. I’ll tell you when I was mayor, I was here in my house when the two little Viramontes girls were killed in the house nearby. The police didn’t even tell me, they just escorted me out of my house while they were dealing with the incident. They didn’t even want us near it. They kept us away.”

“I went to the hospital where the mother and grandmother were,” she continued. “I wouldn’t have even thought of going to the crime scene.”

When asked the same question former mayor Jim Davis responded, “No. Never! Not my place. I always left it up to the trained professionals. I always kept in the communication loop so I could properly and correctly respond to the media. Never in my wildest dreams would I tour a crime scene.”

“Mr. Mayor has been watching too many TV cop shows,” he added.

Former two-term Antioch Mayor Don Freitas agreed with Rocha and Davis. To the same question he responded, “Absolutely not! My appearance would have only complicated matters. The mayor has no reason to interfere with the police investigation. None. The mayor has absolutely no business being at an active crime scene. He should not cross the tape. He could contaminate the scene. With his presence it could cause the police to be distracted. When they’re finished the police will brief the council.”

“It’s just not appropriate,” Freitas continued. “He could actually compromise the whole investigation and if there is criminal action and this would go to court the posting could actually help the defense. The work of the police department is difficult enough they don’t need ambitious politicians to cause them more problems.”

“It’s an active investigation. Until it’s completed and professionally done, the information and photos should not be shared as it could contaminate the investigation,” Freitas added.

Former Antioch councilman and city clerk, Arne Simonsen, one of the proponents of Thorpe’s recall shared that he had “Never heard of anything like that being done before when a mayor was given a tour of a crime scene. Sounds like Thorpe is trying to score some points with the recall effort underway.”

When reached for comment former Antioch Mayor Pro Tem and Councilman Manny Soliz said, “no, I never did, myself nor ever heard of a former mayor or council member going to an active crime scene and grandstanding, like Lamar did.”

This reporter, also a former Antioch mayor pro tem and councilman never toured a crime scene while the police investigation was being conducted, nor afterwards.

Injured Antioch Community Service Officer

Thorpe’s Facebook post ended with him writing, “Unfortunately, we did have an injury of a community service officer who was providing traffic support. He was helicoptered to the emergency room but is expected to fully recover from his injuries. Let’s wish him a speedy recovery.”

Yet, when asked Saturday night about the injured CSO’s condition and if he was still in the hospital or had been released, Bonilla only responded with, “My understanding is that CSO was directing traffic during (the) incident. I do not have any updated information at this time.”

Questions for Mayor, Chief, PIO and City Manager Go Unanswered

Questions were emailed to Thorpe, Morefield, Bonilla and City Manager Ron Bernal Sunday morning asking “why would the mayor or anyone not involved in the investigation be allowed to enter the crime scene, past the yellow tape, to take photos and provide those to the public, potentially corrupting evidence? Is that proper for APD to give tours of crime scenes during an active investigation to council members or anyone not associated with the investigation?” As of 9:00 p.m. Sunday none of them had responded.

Contra Costa DA Shows Up at Crime Scene

An ABC7 News report that aired Saturday night offered additional information and video from the incident, which included comments from neighbors, with video from outside the yellow police tape. It showed Contra Costa District Attorney, who is running for re-election in next June’s primary, was also at the scene, yesterday. She said, “I understand a lot of rounds were fired. But we’re glad that it’s…we’re contained, here and so, now we’re just trying to follow up with the investigation.”

That report also quoted a neighbor saying the still unidentified shooter was in his 40’s.

 

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Thorpe FB post & crime scene photos 12-11-21


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