Sacramento TV media spotlight skinhead in pro law-enforcement puff piece

In a bizarre twist, local neo-Nazi becomes brief face of ‘Blue Lives Matter’ campaign

This is an extended version of a story that ran in the August 4, 2016, issue.

Leave it to neo-Nazis to screw up a feel-good news story.

Undermining the message of “Blue Lives Matter,” a self-identified skinhead from Sacramento became the face of a pro-police campaign over the weekend by tying blue ribbons around trees and lampposts in Folsom and El Dorado Hills to honor the law enforcement profession.

“We’re out here just trying to show support for those who risk life and limb for our safety and our security,” Derik Punneo told KXTV’s Ericka So in a story that both ABC10 and FOX40 aired over the weekend and featured on their websites.

There’s just one problem with this: Punneo is a self-admitted skinhead who may have been involved in the June 26 Capitol rally that erupted into violent mayhem when a group of white nationalists clashed with counter-demonstrators. The public catastrophe left 10 people injured, including five who suffered stab wounds.

Despite the heavy security presence of the California Highway Patrol and Sacramento Police Department at the rally, and an untold number of videos recorded and shared by both media and individuals, no one has been arrested in the weeks following the mass-casualty event. Sacramento police investigated three incidents of violence in their jurisdiction, closing two of the cases because of a lack of cooperation, said department spokesman Sgt. Bryce Heinlein. The CHP is investigating acts of violence that occurred on Capitol grounds, with an assist from the police department. At some point, Heinlein said, the CHP may take its findings to the district attorney’s office to see if it will file charges.

The lack of arrests spurred competing doxing campaigns, in which both sides posted and shared personal information of the people they believe were involved in the violence, including Punneo.

Social media users identifying as anti-fascists shared images and other personal information from the Facebook page of a user identified as “Derik Punneo (Strictly skinhead).” They also created a virtual wanted poster by placing a photo from the rally, of a man brandishing a knife, in a collage with other photos from Punneo’s Facebook page. Then there was the screen capture of a social media exchange involving a user named Manda Boone, who was named in the TV news pieces as Punneo’s girlfriend. At one point, Boone writes, “Derik got stabbed.”

In other words, there’s a lot out there about these two. But apparently no one at ABC10 or FOX40 did their research before running the puff pieces about Punneo and Boone tying ribbons in support of cops.

By Tuesday, FOX40 had pulled the story from its website and replaced it with the following message: “Editor’s Note: This story has been temporarily removed pending an editorial review.”

ABC10’s website still had the print version of the story on display, which includes the reporter’s take on Punneo: “He understands how dangerous a life in law enforcement can be.”

According to a December 2010 appellate ruling by California’s Third District Court of Appeals, obtained through the website Leagle, a Derik Punneo was arrested for attempted rape and resisting arrest in San Joaquin County. That Punneo was also alleged to belong a skinhead street gang.