Venezia: Costa Mesa police supporters plan rally on same day as ‘wake’

My last column about the memorial gathering for Jay Pinson planned for 4 p.m. Jan. 28 at Costa Mesa Councilman Gary Monahan’s restaurant garnered much interest by readers.


For the record: An earlier version of this post inocorrectly stated that the memorial gathering for Jay Pinson will take place Feb. 28. In fact, the event is Jan. 28.


Many shared my opinion that this event is in poor taste.

The fact that Pinson died in a shootout with Costa Mesa Police Department officers trying to serve him extradition warrants for alleged embezzlement, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and criminal sexual penetration of a minor, was a point of contention.

Monahan’s explanation that he was holding the event as a “fundraiser” for Pinson’s girlfriend and her son didn’t sit well with readers either.

The overwhelming theme of reader feedback was that the councilman should be showing support for the officers, whose lives were on the line in that altercation, rather than “Celebrating Jay’s Life,” as the Facebook and email invitation I received stated.

Resident Mary Spadoni is one who feels strongly about this and plans on doing something about it.

And it’s not a stretch to see why she feels so passionate about the cops in this situation when you understand her background.

Spadoni was the first woman on patrol in 1968 in Southern California, serving with the Whittier Police Department.

She spent five years there before becoming an Orange County district attorney’s office investigator for the next 19 years, then as a private investigator for 18 years. She retired three years ago.

Spadoni has plans in motion to organize a rally supporting police during the same time the memorial service will take place.

She says this event is not meant to be a protest against Councilman Monahan or his actions.

“We are not demonstrating against the wake, it’s all about supporting the police officers,” she says.

Spadoni says she’s contacting women in all areas of Costa Mesa to get the word out about the rally, using their email lists and social media.

For the rally she’s asking people to make signs supporting the police and thanking them for their service.

She made it very clear to me she did not want folks “holding signs against Monahan ... .”

“This is all about showing appreciation for our police,” she says.

The rally will start outside Skosh Monahan’s, 2000 Newport Blvd., about a half hour before the memorial fundraiser for Pinson.

I can understand why Spadoni and others want to celebrate the boys in blue who protect their city.

One thing missing over the last few days, as we’ve discussed this issue, is the impact to the cops involved in Pinson’s shooting.

Though the official investigation regarding the shooting is not complete, and details haven’t been released, the bottom line is that a man died violently on Dec. 16.

Gunshot deaths are not a pretty sight. The trauma of witnessing this firsthand is not something easily forgotten for those involved.

What the officers on the scene felt as the shootout unfolded none of us can imagine. It will remain their personal nightmare as they move forward.

Sure, cops are trained for all sorts of extreme circumstances, but is anyone truly prepared for the emotional impact of facing a life-and-death situation?

I’ve asked how the police officers involved are doing. No one would speak on the record because the investigation is ongoing.

But even if half of the off-the-record descriptions of the crime scene I’ve heard are true, it had to be a horrific experience for those on the scene.

On Thursday, Spadoni went to City Hall to get a special-event permit for the rally.

She was told it would take two weeks, which isn’t going to stop her from moving forward. She feels this is an “issue of freedom of speech.”

It will be interesting to see what happens next and how many people attend the rally she’s organizing.

I’d venture to guess more will attend Spadoni’s event than Pinson’s memorial since the last time I looked at the Facebook page for it only 10 people had responded they’d attend. Of the names, the only one I recognized was Costa Mesa Planning Commissioner Jim Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick explained that, unaware of Pinson’s past, he purchased several antiques from his shop.

“I never knew about Jay’s past and the terrible things he is accused of,” Fitzpatrick told me in an email. “I thought he was Black Irish from Mississippi, because that’s what we talked about.”

Pinson’s girlfriend told Fitzpatrick that she needed help to support her son, and in support of the fundraiser he explained that “Gary has been so good to so many in the past.”

Participating in the wake is in no way meant as an affront to the officers involved in the shooting, Fitzpatrick said.

“I apologize to any in CMPD who are offended by my supporting (the girlfriend), this event, and I mean no disrespect,” Fitzpatrick wrote. “I support CMPD, and I have zero doubt they acted accordingly that tragic night. Every time P.D. drives by with lights and sirens, my kids and I make the sign of the cross and say a prayer. I plan on going, saying my respects and making a donation. That doesn’t mean I am not disheartened with Jay’s actions to put anyone in harm’s way. I am.

“It also saddens me that this has become political.”

So how does Spadoni feel about the possibility – if the permit doesn’t arrive in time – that folks could get arrested for unlawfully gathering at her rally?

“At 69 an arrest for civil disobedience wouldn’t bother me a bit,” Spadoni joked.

Though she doesn’t seem too concerned about the idea of spending time in the clink, I have to believe cops won’t like being forced to arrest citizens showing support for CMPD.

But then again, I can’t believe this whole memorial controversy is making anyone in this city happy right now.

BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at