The man who killed a San Jose police officer and then died himself of a gunshot wound had one recorded bout with jail nearly 20 years ago – after he burped in his common-law wife’s face and refused to clean up some spilled salmon from the couch.
According to 1996 Santa Clara County court records, Scott Irwin Dunham, 57, a retired college groundskeeper, was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence battery charges when he lived on Clifton Avenue in San Jose. He spent three days in jail and adhered to a protective order, records indicate, after pleading no contest to the charges. He then successfully moved to have a judge to dismiss the case under a section of the law that allows such relief.
He had no other criminal history, police said, until he ended up killing San Jose Police Officer Michael Johnson Tuesday evening at his apartment complex with a high-powered rifle. Johnson went to the Senter Road address after someone called 911 to report that Johnson was threatening to kill his wife. It is unclear if the wife referred to is the same woman noted in the 1996 court record. NBC Bay Area is not naming that woman, and was unable to locate her on Thursday.
After killing the 14-year police officer, Dunham died himself. Police have not said if the bullet came from his own gun, or from the ensuing police gun battle.
During the 911 call on Tuesday, the dispatcher could be heard recounting that Dunham was on "lots of meds," was possibly bipolar, and despondent. Later, police told the dispatcher there were reports of “lots of ammo” in the house. One neighbor, Debbie Travaski, however, told NBC Bay Area while she didn't now Dunham well, he always had a "nice smile," and was "low key."
Nearly 20 years ago, the common-law wife, an electronics assembler, told police that Dunham had an “alcohol problem and got very “angry and violent after drinking.”
"Today the argument started because (he) burped in (her) face and would not clean up some salmon from the couch," the Santa Clara County sheriff’s report states.
She yelled at him, the report notes, and he got up to go to the bedroom. He pushed her while they were in the hallway, then hit her in the head with a closed fist, the report states.
The woman’s 15-year-old daughter, told deputies she saw her parents struggling on the floor, and that Dunham was choking her mom. She tried to pull the 6 foot 5 inch man with a cross tattooed on his hand off her mom, but he “pulled her hair.” She threw a book at Dunham, identified as her dad, but it missed and it hit her mother in the face.
After the woman called 911, two deputies entered the home, and found Dunham on the bed with a buck knife in a sheath on his belt. The deputy told Dunham to stand up because he was being arrested on spousal battery charges, the report states. He refused three commands, the deputy wrote. The officer said he’d pepper spray him if he didn’t respond, and Dunham answered: “Go ahead and spray me,” which the deputy did, the report states.
The woman told police she did not want to press charges – she only wanted him out of the house for the night.
NBC Bay Area's Michelle Roberts contributed to this report.