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Protest held in Fullerton over man's suicide in police jail cell

March 17, 2012 |  2:48 pm

A handful of family members and friends of Dean Gochenour, who committed suicide in the Fullerton jail after his arrest on drunk driving charges last April, braved the rain Saturday afternoon to protest outside the Fullerton police station.

The protest followed the Orange County district attorney's filing of criminal charges this week against former Fullerton Police Cpl. Vincent Mater, 41, the arresting officer.

Mater is charged with destruction of evidence in a death investigation and vandalism for allegedly crushing an audio recorder that is believed to have captured his interactions with Gochenour.

Mater resigned in August after the department initiated disciplinary proceedings over the destruction of the recorder. Fullerton officers are required to record all contacts with the public.

Last week, the district attorney's office released a report on the death investigation, which detailed statements made by Gochenour to Mater while alone in his cell, before he hanged himself.

According to Mater's account, Gochenour said that he had a previous drunk driving conviction and that his sister would be upset, adding that he recently had lost a woman who was important to him.

The district attorney's report concluded that there was "no affirmative evidence" that Mater knew Gochenour was likely to hurt himself, but added that the destroyed audio recording would have been the best evidence of their interactions.

Gochenour's daughter, Bridget Wiseman, 20, who organized the protest, said she thought the Police Department could have prevented her father's death.

"He gave every indication to the [Fullerton Police Department] personnel that he could have been a danger to himself," she said in an email. "When someone is taken into police custody, THEY SHOULD NOT DIE."

Wiseman said about 15 family members and friends gathered in front of the police station, holding signs that said "Justice for Dean" and "Dean needed help and FPD didn't care."


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-- Abby Sewell