South Lake Tahoe council candidate accused of breaking into his ex’s home says a bear is to blame

A bear stands in a street and looks back.
A man was arrested this month on suspicion of breaking into his ex-girlfriend’s apartment and destroying her belongings. His story, which police didn’t buy, is far different: He was trying to fight off a bear, he said. Above, an actual black bear in Arcadia in 2020.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

A Northern California city council candidate arrested on suspicion of breaking into his ex-girlfriend’s apartment said he has a good reason why he’s not to blame for the incident: It was a bear’s fault.

Kevin Brunner, 30, was arrested Oct. 1 and accused of trying to burn his ex-girlfriend’s belongings in her South Lake Tahoe apartment. He faces felony charges of vandalism and arson.

Sgt. Scott Crivelli, a spokesperson for the South Lake Tahoe Police Department, said officers were dispatched to an apartment and found Brunner inside. The victim told police that Brunner did not live with her and that some of her belongings had been destroyed, Crivelli said.


“Officers there established that they had probable cause that he did not live there and destroyed her belongings, so he got arrested,” Crivelli said.

Yet in an interview with The Times, Brunner maintained his innocence. As he told it, he and his ex-girlfriend were still together at the time, and although his name was not on the apartment lease, he said was staying with her to help take care of her dog. (When The Times asked for his ex-girlfriend’s name and contact information, Brunner declined to provide it.)

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Oct. 28, 2022

According to Brunner, he went to her apartment after work because he was feeling sick, and while he was there, he had an unexpected encounter with a bear.

Brunner said that after he heard a noise outside, his ex-girlfriend’s pit bull started barking and running throughout the apartment, knocking things over.

The bear then broke a windowpane by the door and entered the apartment, according to Brunner.


“Having to go through that situation, I freaked out,” he said.

Brunner said he began throwing objects at the bear, breaking another window. At one point, he said, he tripped and fell through a third window, and cut his hand on the broken glass before collapsing and passing out.

When he awoke, he said, his ex-girlfriend and police officers were inside the apartment.

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Oct. 29, 2022

When asked about the burned items, Brunner said his girlfriend was burning sage earlier, and he denied attempting to destroy any of her belongings.

Brunner was released on $35,000 bond and is expected to appear in court again Nov. 14, six days after the election, according to the El Dorado County district attorney’s office. He does not have an attorney.

Brunner is running for City Council in South Lake Tahoe, and according to City Clerk Sue Blankenship, he remains on the ballot because he has not been convicted.

Public records show Brunner has a previous felony conviction of spousal abuse from 2013. Brunner said the charge against him was accurate but said he was not aware that he had been convicted or that the case was ever on his criminal record. He would not say what he thought had come of the case.

When Blankenship was asked about the previous conviction, she said that the city “does not conduct background checks on potential candidates” and that candidates are required to disclose felony convictions.