Venezia: Wake for wanted man is disrespectful to cops

This week I received an email announcement regarding the upcoming memorial gathering for Costa Mesa antiques dealer Jay Pinson at 4 p.m. Jan. 28 at Skosh Monahan’s Irish Pub.

It didn’t sit well with me.

Why would a Costa Mesa councilman hold a wake at his restaurant for a guy who died in a shootout with the cops Dec. 16?

It’s not like he was a victim of police brutality, at least according to preliminary reports from the ongoing investigation. Quite the opposite.

Pinson was on the lam from the law with felony arrest warrants out for him in New Mexico and Texas.

In New Mexico he was a suspect in a “2011 case involving the criminal sexual penetration of a minor, as well as an unrelated 2011 felony embezzlement case where he had fled New Mexico,” according to the CMPD press release.

Warrants in Texas were for “aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, as well as an additional embezzlement case.”

As CMPD officers were attempting to bring him into custody for extradition under these warrants on Dec. 16, police say Pinson “became violently combative and brandished a handgun. A physical altercation resulted where shots were fired by both the individual and an officer.”

Yet the invitation I received says “Come Celebrate Jay’s Life.”


It went on to mention he “died unexpectedly when confronted by the Costa Mesa police seeking to return him to New Mexico to deal with unhandled situations from his past.”

Now that’s what I call an understatement!

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say innocent people don’t pull guns when the cops come calling, or expect shootouts with police to end well for them.

Given all this, I was especially curious as to why Councilman Gary Monahan would have this guy’s memorial gathering at his bar, especially considering Pinson was accused of a sex crime involving a minor.

Did Monahan not know the story behind Pinson?

Turns out Monahan is quite aware of all that was going on and explained why he is lending his establishment to this event.

“This is not any kind of crazy political statement and has nothing to do with the shootout,” Monahan told me. “The guy is dead and the family is left without someone to support them.”

He knew Pinson, his girlfriend and her young son personally, he said.

“He had a shop two doors down and was just a fun guy,” the councilman said. “What happened in the past, I have no clue. I’m concerned with the girlfriend and the kid and helping them move on.”

Monahan is not donating food for the memorial gathering but is discussing donating 15% of drink sales to the girlfriend and her son.

He also directed me to a Facebook page, where you can click a donation button to help out and another dedicated to the memorial for Pinson where you can find the release I read.

“I’m just helping out a family,” Monahan said.

But that’s not quite the focus of the notice I received; it was all about “celebrating” this guy. There was only a small mention in the last line about donating to his girlfriend.

It certainly didn’t give the impression the main focus was a fundraiser.

And how exactly do you sit around and “celebrate” someone who allegedly put CMPD officers in harm’s way, not to mention being sought regarding serious crimes in two states?

What kind of message does this memorial at Monahan’s send to this city’s police force?

Talking to press information officer Lt. Greg Scott, he had no knowledge of the planned event until I mentioned it.

I then asked if the CMPD had an opinion on this and asked for more details about the crimes in the warrants.

How much money was Pinson accused of embezzling?

How old was the sexual assault victim, and what evidence did the cops have that pointed them to Pinson?

How are officers involved in the shooting holding up?

“As a matter of normal routine the shooting is being investigated by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office,” Scott said a short while later. “There’s no commentary regarding the event at Skosh Monahan’s. Previously released information regarding warrants are correct per our understanding,”

Though I really do believe Monahan has good intentions here regarding the family, he’s a seated city councilman, for goodness sakes. If nothing else this memorial gathering is in poor taste.

If he really wanted to help the family why not quietly write a check?

Or better yet, bill the event as just a fundraiser, not a memorial/wake to “celebrate Pinson.”

BARBARA VENEZIA, whose column appears Fridays, lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at