Peter Muntean, latest APD shooting victim, legally blind, mentally ill, unarmed, 24. (With UPDATES 4/20)


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Peter Muntean with his mother Tina.

What’s up with the Anaheim Police these days?  After a good run of not killing anybody for 16 months, there’ve been three terrible incidents in the last 40 days (and none of them in any way gang-related):

  • The still-unexplained fatal skull-crushing of homeless, unarmed Chris Eisinger while being arrested by APD in West Anaheim in early March; 
  • The shooting later in March of fleeing, unarmed Kenneth Yamashita-Magarro by APD in Irvine, now being investigated by Irvine PD as the victim remains in critical condition;
  • And now – yesterday, Friday the 13th – the equally pointless morning shooting of unarmed, blind, mentally ill 24-year-old Peter Muntean, now in critical condition and doomed to be paralyzed if he survives.

It has not been an easy life for Peter, being legally blind and mentally ill in Anaheim, and this was not his first unfortunate encounter with the APD.  Three years ago he was trying on jeans at a store, jeans which – once he found the right size – his mother had promised to purchase for him on her return to the store – but he liked to feel independent and try them on by himself, being too blind to see the labels.  Well, the store owner got it into his head that Peter was fixing to steal the jeans, and called the police.

Next thing Peter knew, two cops stormed in, one with a gun drawn, one with a taser, and barked at him to put his hands up.  Peter immediately complied, shouting out that he was blind, but as he raised his hands the handle of his walking stick showed through his shirt, and the terrified cops (no doubt “fearing for their lives!”) hollered “gun!” and quickly tased Peter in the chest and side!  Peter fell back into a clothes rack and the officers dutifully set in to punching him and stomping on his face (he still had a boot print on his face days later.)  Then they hogtied Peter, dragged him to a hospital, and released him without charging him with anything.  Because he hadn’t fucking done anything.  2015 that woulda been.  The kinda everyday story that doesn’t make the news.

Since then Peter’s been terrified of the cops, and as his mental illness (paranoid schizophrenia?) progressed, there were a few more incidents where, while cowering and hallucinating assailants, he was dragged off roughly at gunpoint from his mom’s yard like an armed hoodlum.  Yeah, I know, mentally ill Orange County folks from Kelly Thomas to Monique Deckard to Vincent Valenzuela could attest that OC cops don’t know how to deal with troubled but non-dangerous folks.  That is, if they were still alive they could.  

So now Peter’s been living on the street a while as so many mentally ill people end up doing, but now and then he’ll get hungry and come by his mother’s house and ask her for something to eat, as he did Thursday night (his last supper?)  His mother – Tina’s her name – asked him to come in, but he preferred to stay outside in her car so she lent him the car keys and went inside to get him some food.

When she came back out, the car’s lights were on and the doors all open, but Peter was across the street hiding in fear.   “Mom, you were setting me up to kill me!”  “No I’m not, Peter, EAT something.”  “They’re right there, sitting in the front seats!”  “There’s nobody in the car, come back and eat!”  He continued to freak out so Tina called 9-1-1 – what else can a mother do?  But she asked for the fire department and instead got police.  (And this was the incident that police spokesmen and the media have characterized as “domestic violence” to make Peter sound dangerous.)

At first Peter refused to believe that the police were really police, but then he grabbed his backpack and took off running.  (Police later claimed that they saw him holding a gun to his own head as he ran – or was it a cell phone? – but this story changed back and forth over the next day.)  The officers called for re-inforcements, and boy was there a hoopla!  Helicopter, SWAT team with big long guns and masks, EVERYBODY out trying to get Peter, but he got away and they eventually gave up!

They hate it when that happens.

Peter spent the night in a doghouse in a friend’s back yard – he said it was the only place he felt safe.  When his friend told him he had to leave, he looked up another friend in the area but had trouble finding the exact apartment – this was near the Carls Jr on Harbor and Broadway, which means it was REALLY close to the police station, so he was quickly spotted in the 7am light:  “Hey, isn’t that the guy we were looking for last night?”

And he ran again.  This time with notably less luck.  How many shots did how many officers fire at Peter as he cowered at a dead-end cul-de-sac in a Seneca Drive condo complex parking lot?  Two bullets, which either will have paralyzed or killed him, are still lodged in him – one in his back, and one that entered thru the back of his head and is now in his neck.  (Yes, shot in the back while down!)  Before that, a beanbag round had felled him (the old “mixing nonlethal projectiles with lethal” hence making a mystery of why bother with nonlethal, as we saw with Monique.)  Another bullet hit a parked car behind him.  There must’ve been more, because when we spoke with a neighbor – a real law-and-order type who concluded “That guy came to the wrong neighborhood!” – she swore that she heard him (but didn’t see him) shoot multiple times at the poor officers.  And the police are not claiming that.  

And if he had ANYTHING it was a toy B-B gun that police say they found in a bush 30 or 40 feet away.  Was that really there?  Was it even his?  Did he really have a gun to his head as he fled the night before or was it a cell phone?  In any case he was obviously not armed or shooting when they opened fire on him.  That doesn’t look good.  Maybe that’s why the first scene for media consumption featured a discarded police rifle lying by the shot-up car and the pool of Peter’s blood.

Nice try.

(Deja vu, eh?  Remembering pics of Kelly Thomas, Vincent Valenzuela, and Chris Eisinger)

FOUR UPDATES, 4/20

1. At this point, Peter cannot live without life support;  but his mother Tina who says she communicates with him, says he wants surgery.

2. I’d forgotten – a witness on TV during the shooting heard Peter yelling “Help me!”  This would have been at the end of the chase when he was cornered in the parking lot cul-de-sac.

https://www.facebook.com/renee.balenti/videos/10213971589316528/?t=30

https://www.facebook.com/renee.balenti/videos/10213971589316528/?t=30

https://www.facebook.com/renee.balenti/videos/10213971589316528/

3.  It turns out Peter did have an earlier brush with the law in Santa Ana, 2013 – see comments below.  (Hat-tip to police internet troll “Neil”.)  Disposition of this case unknown but he plead not guilty … and of course this has nothing to do with whether or not the police should have shot him last Friday.

4.  Protest this and other recent APD killings at the police station this evening – Friday the 20th at 6, Anaheim Police Station (Harbor and Santa Ana)


About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.