An excerpt about the Peter Klunck case from:
THE TALLY KEEPER (a work in progress)
by Lois Duncan, mother of Kaitlyn Arquette, and author of WHO KILLED MY DAUGHTER?
Copyright: Lois Duncan, 1992
…… however, something did soon come out of
"Does the name Matt Griffin mean anything to you?" the attorney, Michael Bush, asked me.
"Wasn't he the policeman who was known as the 'Ninja Bandit'?"
"That's the one," Michael said. "The press started calling him the Ninja because he dressed all in black and leapt over counters during bank robberies. His get-away cars were stolen sports cars, usually Camaros. He's currently serving a life sentence for shooting a witness who caught him hot-wiring a car."
"I remember that," I said. "He was arrested around the same time our daughter Kait was shot."
"Exactly one week before that," Michael
said. "That four year old story is
back in the news again. In January,
1989, before he shot the witness,
"Well, it's now come to light that the APD Internal
Affairs files contain information that Klunck and Griffin were partners in
crime and Klunck was getting ready to squeal on Griffin on the very day Griffin
shot him. There's also a rumor
circulating that several of
"What does this have to do with us?" I asked him.
` "The federal prosecutors have demanded to examine the Internal Affairs reports. APD refuses to release them. Which suggests that there's stuff in those files that they don't want known."
"But what's the connection -- "
"I'm getting to that," Michael said. "A private investigator in
"What exactly are you driving at?"
"If it's true that members of Dung's bunch were
"Which could explain why APD has treated Dung so tenderly!"
"And why they were so resistant to investigating the possibility of Vietnamese involvement, not just in Kait's murder, but in other crimes as well.”
"Can APD be forced to release the Internal Affairs files?"
In February, Don and I made a trip to
We started by pulling up newspaper articles from the time of the Klunck shooting and worked our way forward to the present. According to the Albuquerque Journal, Police Chief Sam Baca told reporters that Peter was shot twice in the chest when in reality he was shot three times in the back. The Journal had also somehow obtained a confidential report that disclosed that the three officers who fired at Peter gave conflicting statements. Matt Griffin, whose two bullets were defined as the ones that killed Peter, refused to give a statement at the scene. Officer Robert Valtierra said Peter had a gun in his left hand. Sgt. Paul Heatley said he clearly saw a gun in Peter's right hand. Officer Steve Nakamura, who did not fire at Peter, reported that Peter was unarmed. Nakamura's statement was ridiculed by his supervisors, and because of his continued insistence that he did not see a gun in Peter's hand, Nakamura was ordered to undergo psychological testing.
The gun that Peter had supposedly been carrying was not found near his body. In fact, it wasn't found at all until seven hours later, when a 38-caliber derringer turned up 15 feet from the spot where Peter fell. It tested negative for fingerprints.
Once a weapon was finally in evidence,
The Klunck family refused to give up on the civil rights
issue and contacted the F.B.I. in
An editorial in the
"Five years later, Klunck's death is still haunted by troubling questions that cry out to be answered ... Now thanks to investigations by federal prosecutors, a startling possible link between Klunck and the officer who fired the fatal shots -- Matt Griffin -- has been included for the first time in public records on the case. In documents filed in federal court, the prosecutors say they have developed evidence that Klunck and Griffin were engaged in criminal activity together and that Klunck was in the process of making the officer's criminal activity known to police on the day he was killed ... Could a policeman who had possible criminal links with Klunck have a compelling personal reason to want to silence Klunck -- a personal motive for firing bullets into the man's back?"
Since Michael had told us the statute of limitations
would run out on January 27, we pulled up February issues of
We skimmed the list of sport cars
I phoned Peter's mother, Renee Klunck, and asked if she would be willing to talk with me. She invited me to come right over and the minute we met we bonded into instant sisterhood.
"When I read your book, Who Killed My Daughter?, I went out of my tree!" Renee told me. "I sat there pounding my fists on the kitchen counter as I read the names of the very same police officers who dealt with us, and there they were, feeding you the exact same line of bull!
"To answer your question, yes, our son had a drug
"We've been told that some of the Vietnamese group
"Peter definitely had the goods on
"What do you think happened that morning?" I asked her.
"Well, according to a report in the Internal Affairs
file, Officer Nakamura -- the honest cop -- had Peter out of the car with both
hands in the air and no gun in either one of them, when they heard a
gunshot. Peter spun around, looked
behind him, and took off running. What I
personally believe is that he saw
"How can you possibly know what's in the Internal Affairs file?"
"Somebody stole it," Renee said.
I stared at her in amazement.
"Somebody stole the Internal Affairs file?"
"I prefer to consider it 'borrowing'," Renee said mildly. "This person was in an attorney's office, sort of poking around when the lawyer was in the john, and right there, staring her in the face, was that secret APD file that was being withheld from the prosecutors. She read it, of course, and when she came to the part where Officer Nakamura told his supervisor, 'I can't believe it! They shot him in the back and he didn't even have a gun!' she just flipped! Nakamura also stated that Peter followed all instructions and made no threatening gestures of any kind, and two other officers backed him up on that. This person who was reading the file knew nobody would believe her if she quoted those statements, so she tucked the file under her arm, walked out past the secretary, and got the thing copied. Then she sneaked the original back before it was missed."
"My God!" I exclaimed in awe. "How absolutely wonderful!"
"She only did what she had to do," Renee said modestly. "There's so much evidence of a police cover-up you wouldn't believe it. Even Rheardon's report -- he's the former chief justice who investigated for the police department -- in the very first paragraph he says, 'I believe there is a question about whether Mr. Klunck was armed at the time he was shot and, even if he was, whether it was necessary to shoot him.' That's pretty clearly worded, don't you think?"
"It's very clearly worded."
"So, guess how APD interpreted it to the press? Chief Baca issued an official statement that the Internal Affairs investigator had concluded that the shooting was justified! The police can shape situations into anything they want. An honest cop called the Attorney General's office and told them the derringer was an alibi gun planted there by the cops. That cop said APD had intended to mask the whole thing but the coroner's office leaked the information that Pete was shot in the back, not the chest, so that put a crimp in their self-defense claim.
"The grand jury was told out-and-out lies, Lois, and we weren't allowed to present any evidence to the contrary! We'd had a private investigator on the case from the very beginning, and when he asked for a chance to testify, he was told that wouldn't be allowed because his testimony might 'muddy the waters.'
"It took the grand jury seven minutes to come to the decision that there wasn't any evidence of wrong-doing. There was plenty of evidence, but it had been withheld from them! Can you imagine my fury and frustration? I thought I'd go crazy! There I sat with all this material that pointed to premeditated murder and an APD cover-up and nobody wanted to look at it!"
"So what did you do?" I asked her.
"I gave it to both local papers all the TV stations. Everybody wanted to kill me, but I didn't give a damn. Even if I wound up going to jail, something had to be done. The system can't be allowed to screw around with the truth like that! The reports I got hold of don’t mention Vietnamese involvement, but there are plenty of others that are still under wraps. I have a strong gut feeling there's a connection between our children's cases."
Don and I returned from our trip to
Ironically, the title was Killing Mr. Griffin.