Retired SFPD inspector faces felony charges in Marin County after prank escalates
SAN RAFAEL, Calif. - A children's prank escalated into violence in Marin County, putting a retired police officer behind bars.
Dean Taylor, 63, faces five felonies, after allegedly threatening to shoot an 11-year-old boy.
"We have a frustrated homeowner who wildly over-reacted," said San Rafael Police Lt. Dan Fink, describing the encounter last Friday evening.
It started with a group of boys, age 10-12, playing ding-dong ditch in their Loch Lomond neighborhood.
"Messing around, ringing doorbells and running away," said Fink, "and this homeowner appeared to be waiting for them, because they'd done it before."
Security footage from the home's doorbell shows a boy dash up, press the button, and retreat.
Police say Taylor charged after them, even getting in his car to chase them.
He allegedly cornered the 11-year-old boy near San Pedro Elementary School, then got out of his car to shout at him and grab him.
A witness in the area called 911, as did a parent of one of the other boys who had made it home.
"The juvenile said he grabbed him by the back of the neck and forced him to the ground and when he got up, he grabbed his arm and pushed him into the vehicle," said Fink.
Taylor apparently told the child he would take him to his parents, but instead let him out at a nearby market, and making an alleged threat.
"The juvenile said he told him, if he did this again, he would put a bullet in his head."
The child ran home and told his parents.
Taylor didn't seem surprised when police arrived two hours later.
"He immediately asked us, if this was about the kids," said Fink, adding that Taylor admitted to chasing the boys.
"But he denied putting his hand on the kid's neck and he denied making the death threat."
Taylor faces charges of kidnapping, making criminal threats, false imprisonment, battery and child endangerment.
"Those charges do sound very, very serious especially when nobody was hurt and everyone is home safe," said his attorney Anthony Brass.
"Dean Taylor is someone I've known for years, a guy with a spotless record who never solved a problem with violence in his life."
Brass called Taylor's behavior aberrant, and explained that he is recovering from painful arthritis surgeries and that the boys mischief had disrupted his rest before.
"He's literally the defendant who is sitting at home minding his own business," said Brass.
"He didn't go out looking for trouble, trouble came looking for him."
The child's parents, in a statement emailed to KTVU, said Taylor's behavior was "absolutely horrifying" and can "never be justified".
They question how someone could "do something like this to an innocent eleven year old boy".
They call the incident "terrifying and inexcusable".
And their son, they say is "traumatized by what happened and we're focused on taking care of him and trying to make him feel safe."
Taylor posted $100,000 bond and was released from jail, entering a not-guilty plea on Thursday.
He raised three sons at his San Rafael home, spending 34 years with the San Francisco Police Dept and rising to the rank of Inspector.
"We didn't treat him any differently, if anything he should know better," said Fink, "and no matter what your job is, when you're frustrated and upset, the moral of the story is don't take the law into your own hands."
This week Taylor was dismissed as the golf coach at San Rafael High School.
His attorney says he is suffering over that, as the post was important to him.
"Anyone who's been a victim of a prank like this would want it to stop," said Brass, "and this is a man in enormous physical pain trying to get some sleep."
Fink believes there is also a lesson for young pranksters.
"As a kid, you think you're doing something that's innocent fun, but nobody knows anymore about how people are going to react."
Debora Villalon is a reporter for KTVU. Email Debora at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter@DeboraKTVU