Sunday, May 3, 2009

Killing Happy in Santa Cruz

by Becky Johnson
May 3, 2009

Santa Cruz, Ca. -- We were a couple of months in the City Hall Sleepers Protest in 1996 when Happy arrived. He was a very enthusiastic addition to our rag-tag protest. I don't know if Happy was institutionalized then or just homeless. One or the other. He was always either institutionalized or homeless. His only living relative was his mother who was conserved in a nursing home over the hill.

"Have a happy, happy Day!" he said. He looked like he had just left the Summer of Love in Golden Gate Park in 1968. He wore blue jeans and a hippie head band, love beads, peace signs, and he loved to smoke pot. He was "Happy" to us.

The SENTINEL reported that he had failed a more secure locked facility due to "assaultive behavior" and then been placed in the less secure, Juan Pablo Group Home. Commented local attorney, Kate Wells " That makes no sense at all. If he failed due to violence, why would they place him in a less secure facility?"

On November 12, 1997 Happy John Dine was shot to death by SCPD Officer Conor Carey on the sidewalk on Front St. in front of the Coast Commercial Bank as he waited for a bus. He was transferred by ambulance to Dominican Hospital where he died.


In the SENTINEL, after he was killed we learned he was "John Dine aged 41" who had "a dark side" with a "history of violent behavior." SENTINEL writers Robert Gammon and Karen Clark painted a scenario that justified police shooting him to death as he peacefully waited for his bus. Anything to villify the man after his death was allowed. Cross-checking information was not necessary.

The Sentinel reported "witnesses said that even before the shooting, Dine was acting strangely. 'Flipping off' cars and yelling at no one in particular."

This statement is so disingenuous. There WAS a witness who reported that months prior he had seen Dine "flipping off" cars and yelling at no one in particular. But THAT DAY, other than Catalyst bouncer, Ben Newman, no one had a problem with John Dine. The article is written so readers believe Dine was acting out in that fashion just prior to being shot. He wasn't.

When I read the reports which documented Dine's "history of violence" at the Juan Pablo group home in which he lived, they said that Dine had hit his own head against a wall. That almost sounds like a cover-up in itself for violence committed against Dine by staff or other patients. He had no history of committing violence against anyone. But for SENTINEL readers, Dine had " a dark side", a "history of violence," and was "flipping off cars and yelling " just prior to being shot.

Here is what the eyewitnesses actually said.

"the man didn't put his arms up or shout anything. I didn't see him display any type of weapon.Why would the cops shoot this guy if he didn't do anything?"
--Aloni Balawedger New Leaf Market worker who witnessed the shooting from the roof of the New Leaf Market--quoted in the San Jose Mercury Nov 14, 1997,

They just walked up and blasted the guy! He told them to "fuck off" and they just blasted the guy...cold-blooded murder! Point blank at five feet! He had his hands down. There was no weapon in his hands." ---eyewitness Tom Murphy who was interviewed by the police and then left town for his own safety

"Happy was holding nothing that I saw." --eyewitness Stacey Buckalew who was in the front seat of the car directly behind Carey's police car. The car had stopped because the police car obstructed its forward movement. Stacey and boyfriend, Mike Schultz both called the shooting of Happy John Dine "murder."


  1. Its a damn shame.
    I'm glad this type of thing doesn't seem to happen on a regular basis here.. I myself my be shot.
    Thanks for keeping this info updated and relevant.

  2. I miss him. I was looking for him the day he was shot. When I arrived at the spot where he was murdered, his body had already been removed and the news media was there. I'll never forget that day. I wish I had found him earlier. Maybe he would not have been shot.


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