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Wife of Burbank officer blames department for his suicide

Neil 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

Photo: Sgt. Neil Gunn Sr. Credit: Courtesy the Gunn family.

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Comments () | Archives (24)

Cops! crooked crooked cops who ruin the lives of there own. I hate em'...I can't stand there double standard views. The abuse there power, park in unauthorized spaces and the desk jockeys at any police station are loser cops that can't make it on the street. I respect detectives but the boys in blue that patrol the streets are a bunch of pollo loco eating, tight shirt wearing so they look bigger including a bullet proof vest cowards with a gun. LAPD is a joke! They teach em' how to shoot a gun and master all the codes, there favorite the 10-100. Do us a favor, meet ur stinking quotas by giving drunk drivers citations and get bent!

If the Burbank police department is anything like the LAPD (and from the sound of this article, they are) then they will end up giving this poor woman a multi-million dollar payoff, then proclaim that they did nothing wrong.

I doubt that would happen in Burbank, mizzle. They will claim they did nothing wrong, but no payoff. After living in Burbank (and moving due to police incompetence), I only know they're laws and methods blanket situations unjustly.

Lets dismantle the burbank PD and bring in the big dogs, LASD. It's time to bring in the Sheriff's. Cheaper and better police services. Better patrol cops, investigators and so forth.

I grew up in Burbank. I am not a wave the flag defend the police for whatever they do type of guy, however, I will say this. As police departments go, Burbank is one of the best. They don't seem to have the same hostility as the LAPD. LAPD cops are very defensive and rude. BPD cops are pretty easy going.

Sorry, but the only one responsible when somebody takes his own life, is the guy who took his own life. Normal people don't commit suicide over investigations when they have not been involved in any wrongdoing. Maybe he had something to hide; his wife would likely be the last to know if he did.

Sorry he's dead but come on now, place blame where blame is due!

If he wasn't a racist pig this wouldn't of happened! PERIOD

The family is looking for a taxpayer bailout (Lawsuit)?
Time for cover ups and payoffs to end.
He put the gun to his own head and pulled the trigger.
Sorry for the family, but no more Excessive Force!
No more excuses.

All I can say is criminals with a badge. The only difference is they get away with it because they are cops. And I must agree "Taggart" if he had nothing to hide then WHY? do this. What a selfish act on his part.

This coward was guilty of everything he was facing..obviously.he was a scared chicken turkey of a cop...He had demons..and they told him to take the easy way out...POW.....he was insane...but how many people did he mess over all of his career...plenty...and he didnt want to stick around for that to come to light..

Sgt Gunn was a stand up guy,who did not let his men get messed over by the bosses,simple he was the type of cop that you would want responding to your house if your wife needed help,thats telling, he will be missed, sad to see foloks post negatives when they had no knowledge of him or his dept...

If it makes his wife feel better to blame someone that's fine. I 've been in law enforcement for 20 plus years. Yes guilty or not there is a ton of stress when you get accused of something. If he committed suicide you probably had one of two issues. He did do wrong and knew he would be found guilty or he had pre-existing problems at home and the extra load of being accused that sent him over the edge. In all we all make our own choices, he decided to end his life early. Very sad, but his choice. God Bless his family and friends.

"INNOCENT" people dont take their own lives.
The guilt was too much to handle...

Regardless if he was involved in misconduct or not, why would anyone take their life...Some individuals believe that "I'll show him/her/them and everyone will feel bad about the outcome..." That's not the way it works, he will be an afterthought in a week or two...Very Unfortunate...

Unless of course he was involved in very serious criminal misconduct, then it's guilty as charged, death penalty...

Who knows...

Burbank residents strongly support our police department. They're very responsive and agressive. They're the reason why we choose to pay more to live here.

Why do most people want to live in Burbank and not L.A.? Beacuse it's safe! Everyone always tells me I'm lucky I live in the City of Burbank!

I have no pitty

The situation in Burbank is a tragic one. The department as a whole is made up of hard working men and women who do the right thing. Contracting for Sheriff's services as suggested in a comment is not the answer, they can barely handle what they have now. What is needed is an independent and compehensive investigation to determine FACTS! Not rumor or inuendo, just the facts. New leadership may well be in order not just for the police department, but for city management, city attorney and maybe even city council. God Bless Sgt Gunn, his family and the tormented department.

INTEGRITY!!!!!!!! LEADERSHIP!!!!!!!! RESPECT!!!!!
That is what's lacking at the BURBANK police station. They need to restructure the department, and change there old fashion cowboy white racist tactics. It doesnt help hiring minorities because they will just follow the same broken strategy and show off to there white coligues. They should adapt the established LAPD. I lived in burbank it's like living in a prison if your not white. Personally i think they should build a wall around the tiny city of burbank and keep them in there all safe away from the world.

This just smells wrong in all the wrong places. How convenient was it to slap them with excessive force allegations as soon as they filed suit against Burbank PD. Can't anyone see that the victims are being put in a corner and being murdered so they can silence them. They are doing this to cover up their biggest fear which is racism and discrimination. They rather have bloody hands than be called racist. FBI should really look into that case!!

I feel very sorry for the Gunn family and their tragic loss. Ive lived in Burbank for 50 years. I have always felt our PD was one of the best. That being said, it appears that Sgt. Gunn was being investigated for wrong doing and felt he was not supported by the BPD so he killed himself. I recall accusations against the BP department for showing favoritism and being biased. This is an official Sheriff's investigation, isn't it? How was the BP department supposed to support this officer against these accusations? Wouldn't that be like a cover up or showing favoritism. Isn't that why it was being conducted from the outside? The department was not accusing the officer, but someone had to report him using excessive force and the Sheriff's Department had to believe that the accusations had merit. It seems logical that if Sgt. Gunn had done nothing wrong, he could have remained on paid leave until the investigation was over and would have gone back to work. This is very sad, but neither the Chief or the Department is to blame for this man taking his own life.

I am a fired ex-cop from Burbank PD and know well of the corruption on this department. Sgt. Gunn killed himself because he believed the propaganda fed to him that a fired police officer is worthless. I am an exapmle to the contrary. My life is better being out of that career! There will be more suicides once the FBI finish their investigation and the city will clean up the department with a new chief from outside the department.

I will be the first to admit that people are imperfect and therefore police officers are imperfect. I have been pulled over for what has seemed to me, to be some ridiculous reasons -- this however, does not offer me a license or authority to speak with such disrespect and self-proclaimed knowledge that some of you commenters below have so graciously offered yourselves. Mr. Winston, I would like to specifically address you as ignorant -- the Burbank Police Dept is not the LAPD, so maybe consider taking your "pollo loco eating, tight shirt wearing so they look bigger including a bullet proof vest cowards with a gun." comments to an article following a more appropriate article, not one in which clearly marked with the stain of a grieving family of a BPD Officer.
All in all, when we all get to the status of perfection, I'd say then maybe we'll have the right to judge -- until then, I'd encourage you all to keep your mouths shut, if not for the respect of the fallen, then simply do it as a favor to yourselves in order protect your reputation as the ignorant fools you are portraying yourselves to be.

SCREW BPD...its all there fault that the officer killed himself there very corrupted, mean, cold hearted police officer....im not suprised this happened...burbank police are horrible..that station needs to be taken over from the sheriffs...bpd are a gang of there own. im 100% they aRe using exsesive force. be cause ive seen them do it!
but O it doesnt matter what i saw because im not a police officer...bpd has messed ppl lives up..

PLEASE THERES MORE GOING ON IN THE DEPARTMENT!!!
Some one nees to do something about this.


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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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