YouTube exec who called police in viral video apologizes, says own father was killed by a trespasser

Erin Woo, The Mercury News on

Published in Business News

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The YouTube employee filmed calling police on a black man visiting a friend at a San Francisco condo building last week said Tuesday that he had approached the situation with a "unique history": His father was killed in 2012 by a trespasser outside his parents' Berkeley home.

In a statement posted to Medium late Tuesday, Christopher Cukor -- who is white -- both apologized for making software engineer Wesly Michel feel "unfairly targeted" for his race and defended his own actions in the July 4 incident captured in Michel's now-viral video.

The recording shows Cukor, accompanied by his young son, confronting Michel outside of the condo building on Van Ness Avenue and demanding to know who he is visiting in the building, then subsequently calling police to report a "trespasser," while his child tearfully begs him to stop. From behind the camera, Michel implores Cukor to "listen to your son," and warns "you're going to be the next person on TV."

The video spread rapidly across social media, with over 1.6 million views on Facebook and 3.5 million views on Twitter as of Tuesday night.

With many critics casting him as the latest white person caught calling 911 to report an unsubstantiated threat by a person of color, Cukor said Tuesday that the video did not tell the full story of what he titled the "incident in a San Francisco doorway."

"Here's where the complexity begins," he wrote. "My father was murdered outside his home by a trespasser who he confronted alone. For my child's safety, my safety and that of the building, I felt it was necessary to get help in this situation."


As this news organization reported at the time, Cukor's father, Peter Cukor, was bludgeoned to death in the yard of his Berkeley home on Feb. 18, 2012, after the police did not respond to his call reporting a trespasser on his property.

In the wake of Peter Cukor's death, the Cukor family filed a lawsuit against the city of Berkeley, blaming police for failing to respond to Peter Cukor's call to a non-911 "emergency number." Transcripts of the call obtained by this news organization that showed the 67-year-old requesting urgent assistance to deal with an apparently mentally ill man who was trying to get into the Cukors' house.

"We find this very disturbing -- that a citizen's call for emergency help can go unanswered and lead to his death is not a mistake?" Christopher Cukor told reporters here in 2012. "My father should be alive."

The family withdrew the wrongful death suit after the city agreed to make changes to its emergency response system.


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