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Family of Burbank officer blames city officials for his death

The wife of Neil Thomas Gunn Sr., the subject of an FBI probe who killed himself last week, said allegations of excessive use of force left her husband 'brokenhearted.'

November 04, 2009|Andrew Blankstein

The family of a Burbank police sergeant who took his own life last week blamed the police chief and other city officials for his death, saying he was the victim of retaliation for defending fellow officers.

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 officer 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."

"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," she said in a phone interview. "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."

Tina Gunn, who works in the Burbank city manager's office, said the family believes her husband was singled out after 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.

City Atty. Dennis Barlow said he maintains "the greatest concern and respect for the Gunn family."

A 22-year veteran of the department, Gunn grew up in Highland Park and followed his older brother, now retired, into policing. His son Neil Jr. is currently a Burbank police officer. The elder Gunn 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 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 was named in a subpoena of records presented to Burbank officials about a month ago that requested 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."

--

andrew.blankstein@latimes.com

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