A father's left in the dark over son's death

Days after Anaheim police shot and killed his son, he has a father's questions. Would his often troubled 43-year-old son pull a gun and fire first on police before being shot? Is there a way to prove that? What happened during the 12-minute period between the first radio report police made after his son was stopped about 12:15 a.m. Thursday and the second one indicating that shots had been fired? And, in what is in some ways the most vexing question of all, why won't anyone in authority return his phone calls?

"I'm feeling stonewalled," 71-year-old Alan Koenigsberg says Monday morning. "I find it hard to accept that as a father, I can't at least get a courtesy call back from any of the investigators."

He says he's left calls with the Anaheim police, the Orange County district attorney and the coroner. All he wants, Koenigsberg says, is to know exactly what led to his son Barry's death.

"I don't know that we'll ever find out who shot first," Koenigsberg says. "I want to know, did Barry actually shoot a gun himself? I understand that if my son were so foolish as to open fire on police, they would shoot him down. I understand. I'm a cop's son. I understand the cop's side of it. I'm trying to understand my son's side of it. I'm getting no cooperation whatsoever."

The coroner's office will conduct gunshot residue tests to determine if Barry Koenigsberg fired a gun, an Orange County Sheriff's Department spokesman says. The test wouldn't determine if he fired first.

Koenigsberg's death comes with a cruel irony. His grandfather -- Alan's father -- was the inspector of police for the Bayonne, N.J., Police Department, ranking right below the chief and assistant chief. Alan and Barry's mother divorced 39 years ago, when Barry was 4, and father and son weren't close through the years.

However, Barry idolized his grandfather, Koenigsberg says, adding that his son's fondest wish was to be a cop. He got only as far as private security work.

One of the legacies from grandfather to grandson was that Barry often wore his grandfather's police belt, on which cops carry their tools of the trade, Koenigsberg says. Anaheim police said Barry was wearing such a belt when shot last week, but haven't said what, if anything, was on it.

"I remember the day he came to my dad's house," Koenigsberg says, "wearing his uniform and his hat, when he first got his security job. Dad retired out here, and I can vividly picture that day and how proud my son was. My father used to tell him police stories. Barry would spend a lot of time with my father. He connected with him. We didn't have the relationship where he'd visit me. I was the father that divorced his mother. Unfortunately, I didn't do as much as I probably should have done as a father, evidently."

His son's death has made a tough life tougher for Koenigsberg. He had open-heart surgery three years ago and never completely recovered. He developed lung problems and, these days, needs a portable oxygen tank just to do simple tasks. As we talk at a friend's home on Balboa Island, he speaks in quiet, calibrated tones.

He doesn't try to portray his son as incapable of a crazed act. He concedes Barry had been arrested a number of times over the years and had a drug problem. He concedes he often carried a gun and probably had one in his car last week when stopped by police. Anaheim police probably were well aware of him, he says. He's even blunt enough to say that if his son felt provoked, "anything could happen."

Still, the sketchy details of the shooting trouble him. All he knows is that his son was stopped, presumably on a traffic citation, and ended up dead.

"It doesn't make sense to me," Koenigsberg says. "He's been a problem child. I understand all this. But to open fire, unprovoked? I don't believe my son ever had a death wish. It's just that 12-minute period that I have no idea what happened."

My call to Anaheim police and a district attorney investigator went unanswered Monday. The official version of what happened may not be known for a while. And given the litigious potential for such things, it perhaps isn't surprising that authorities aren't keeping Koenigsberg posted.

So, he plays out various scenarios. I ask why his son carried a gun. "For the life of me, I don't know," Koenigsberg says. "If you met him, he was the sharpest, nicest kid in the world. On the other hand, he had a temper, and I think he liked being known as a tough guy."

That leads to all kinds of speculation. Which is exactly what Koenigsberg is trying to avoid.

I ask if he could accept that his son lost control and forced his own demise. "If I knew it was true, I'd accept it," he says. "But I'd want to know it's true. If they tell me [a phony story], tell me something. But why are they not telling me anything at all? Or won't return a father's call?"



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