“I don’t get those kinds of cases in my courtroom at 13 years old,” said Juvenile Judge Steven Teske, a 12-year veteran on the Clayton bench. “He’s showing signs of no remorse. And that’s scary.”
Bun, now 17, is facing murder charges in the shooting death of Clayton County Sheriff’s Deputy Richard “Rick” Daly.
If convicted, Bun could go to prison for life without parole. A 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision prohibits death sentences for defendants who were under 18 at the time of their crimes.
As Teske talked about the 5-foot, 110-pound teenager known as “Jon Jon,” a thick manila folder lay nearby. The details of Bun’s juvenile criminal history remain sealed. But what’s known about his juvenile record — the number and nature of his encounters with the juvenile court system — paint a grim portrait of a child who, from the age of 10, grew up under court supervision. He is accused of burglaries, criminal trespassing, family violence, disruption in school and drug possession.
Teske recalls juvenile authorities were so alarmed early on by Bun they repeatedly committed him to state facilities and put him in programs usually reserved for older kids. At one point, Bun was placed in a program where he was picked up after school, taken to a juvenile center and given dinner and help with homework before being driven home at night so juvenile authorities could be assured he was under constant supervision, Teske said. Yet Bun still managed to find trouble.
Teske is convinced Bun is among a small segment of juvenile offenders who, despite repeat attempts at rehabilitation, are hard to save. Teske, citing national crime studies, said 8 percent of repeat juvenile offenders can’t be reached.
“There are not a lot of Mr. Buns out there,” said Teske.
“That’s why it’s important to identify these children as early as possible. That way, we’re able to stop some of the damage.”
A revolving door
Bun spent his teen years in and out of juvenile lockup, records show.
But locking up a juvenile for years on end — even one with repeated run-ins with the law — runs counter to how the juvenile justice system operates. Juvenile justice’s goal is to give the kids in the system the tools they need to steer them away from adult prison. Supervision in the community is preferred over lengthy incarceration for most.
Additionally, crowding within the system means beds are preserved for the most violent offenders. Bun’s early encounters with the system were not especially violent.
The first time Bun was sent to the state facility at 13, he was sentenced to up to two years on a burglary charge. He was out within a year and back committing crimes.
He was picked up for another burglary, this time someone’s home. He was sent away again and was out in six months. That was in the fall of 2008. In May 2009, his mother called police after the 15-year-old allegedly trashed her home. Bun’s mother declined to speak to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about her son.
In March 2010, the 15-year-old was back in court on a charge of disrupting school. Once again, Bun was handed over to the state juvenile program, which had been handling his case. That was the last time Clayton juvenile authorities saw him. It wasn’t the last time Bun got in trouble.
On Jan. 27, Bun walked into the Los Amigos Gift & Things shop in Forest Park and asked for water, according to police. The clerk took him back into the office where he is alleged to have put a gun to her head and demanded money.
Police say he left the shop with $200 — but not before being captured on the shop’s surveillance camera. Daly was attempting to arrest Bun for that robbery on the day he was killed.
Veasna Jonathan Bun was born in Atlanta on May 15, 1994, into a family where violence and legal run-ins were common. His father, Hing Bun, was convicted last week of bribing a federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement worker last fall. The elder Bun, prosecutors say, bribed the employee to remove him from a list of people needing to check in regularly with immigration authorities. He was facing deportation to Cambodia after he was charged with domestic battery.
By the time juvenile authorities saw Jonathan Bun in August 2007, he had run away five times.
Bun was such a regular in juvenile court that Clayton District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson, whose office is prosecuting his murder case, disqualified herself during his preliminary hearing because of her knowledge of his record.
As Bun sat quietly in the courtroom last week, his father and several teenagers sat outside in the hall, banned from the proceedings. (Family and friends were deemed unruly during one of his hearings shortly after the shooting and had to leave the courtroom). When asked to talk about the Jonathan Bun she knew, a young woman sitting next to Bun’s father in the hallway asked, “Is it gonna matter?”
Lloyd Matthews, Bun’s attorney, was unavailable for comment.
A fateful meeting
When Bun and Daly crossed paths on July 20 at an intersection in a Riverdale subdivision, it was the culmination of months of police work.
Undercover officers in a white truck spent most of that morning tailing Bun, who was riding in a black Honda driven by Tuan Nguyen. Confident they had their suspect, undercover officers called for the marked vehicle unit to make the traffic stop and serve the warrant for the gift shop armed robbery. Daly, 55 years old and a 20-year law enforcement veteran, responded. He pulled behind the black Honda.
Bun spotted the sheriff deputy’s squad car in the car’s rearview mirror, according to Nguyen.
Before Nguyen could bring his car to a complete stop, he said, Bun had pulled a .40-caliber Glock from his waistband and proceeded to load a live round into the chamber.
“What the hell are you doing?” Nguyen said he yelled. “Don’t do it!”
He reached for Bun. But Bun had already jumped out of the car, Nguyen said. Within seconds, Bun fired two shots, hitting Daly — who was wearing a bulletproof vest — in the shoulder and in the stomach just as officer Minh Doan pulled up in his squad car, according to police.
Bun then fled. It was a police dog that ended the 6 1/2-hour manhunt. Bun was taken into custody wearing only his underwear. He’d shed his clothes while running in the woods after the shooting.
Once in custody, the frightened teenager called his mother on his cell and told her, according to testimony at last week’s preliminary hearing, that he had “just shot a cop.”