Further Information on Slain Northern California Psychologist...

Thursday, November 03, 2005
Although no suspect has been named, the local paper has further details, more horrifying than illuminating, on the circumstances of the murder of my colleague Ira Polonsky:

Police were still searching Wednesday for the killer of a longtime Vallejo psychologist who was shot and killed Tuesday night in the hallway of his office building.

Dr. Ira Eugene Polonsky, 64, who had practiced psychology in Vallejo since 1973, died from a single shotgun blast to the lower right abdomen, Solano County Deputy Coroner John Prink said Wednesday.

Responding to a 9-1-1 call, medical and police personnel found Polonsky bleeding a little after 6 p.m. Tuesday in the hallway of 1812 Capitol St., an office building he shared with other psychologists and professionals.

Polonsky was pronounced dead after being transported to Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Vallejo. Police have not released a possible motive in the mysterious crime and said there are no leads to disclose. Vallejo police said they have put a significant amount of resources on the case.

Dr. Polonsky was well-loved by his patients, and respected by his peers:

"He was like a wizened, Jewish Yoda," a patient said. "He was not very tall, slender, he had a beard and there was a soft-spokenness to him.

"I think as a therapist he was willing to take chances and there was a willingness to embrace them as they were," he said.

The former patient said Polonsky worked only twice a week at his Vallejo practice, and spent the rest of the week at his Oakland publishing business, Professional Health Plan Publications. Polonsky was a nationally known authority on practice building for mental health professionals, according to his company's Web site. Polonsky sold extensive reference material on how to maintain a successful psychiatric practice and also offered consulting services from his Web site.


He's somebody that's quite reputable in psychology," said Dr. Robert Heying, a Vallejo psychologist. Polonsky wrote more than 40 articles for professional journals, many for the bi-monthly magazine National Psychologist. "He was someone who was kind of an advisor to the profession. He had my respect."

There is also this about a famous relative:

And it seems Polonsky was a relative of a blacklisted Hollywood director from the McCarthy era.

Polonsky is the nephew of Abraham Polonsky, the American screenwriter and director whose film career was severed for two decades after he refused to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1951, a former patient said. Abraham Polonsky, who died in 1999 at age 88, was best known for writing the script for "Body and Soul" in 1947 and for writing and directing "Force of Evil" the following year.

A former patient of Ira Polonsky for three years who wished to remain anonymous for confidentiality reasons said the doctor confirmed his famous bloodline, but refused to talk in depth about it. Instead he'd refer their conversations back to the session."

Further details as these become available. So far, with the limited information available, this murder seems utterly senseless and deeply tragic.

Dr. Polonsky's death occurs in a context, if one can call a confluence of senseless violence a "context," of a rather large number of homicides in the town where I work:

Vallejo has racked up a dozen homicides this year following a day of bloodshed that left a prominent psychologist dead, one man killed in the Crest and two others wounded - all at the hands of gunmen.

No arrests have been made, and police have not disclosed if they have leads.

The violence began at 6 p.m. Tuesday when longtime Vallejo psychologist Ira E. Polonsky was shot once with a shotgun inside his office on Capitol Street near the courthouse.

In an unrelated incident several hours later, 21-year-old Michael Clint Banks of Vallejo was shot and killed while attending a sidewalk memorial in the Country Club Crest neighborhood marking the one-year anniversary of Vallejo-raised rapper Mac Dre's slaying.

Witnesses say at least one person fired into the air to curb a fight, then turned toward the crowd and fired several times. But police spokeswoman Lt. Lori Lee said detectives were not prepared to say Wednesday whether Banks was the target of the shooting or a victim of an errant bullet.

Solano County Deputy Coroner John Prink said Banks suffered a single gunshot wound to the left side of his neck.

Lee declined to say if witnesses were being cooperative. However, police released no suspect descriptions despite an estimated 150 people near the scene at Mark Avenue and Janice Street when police arrived.

And so far one is not overwhelmed by the competence of the local authorities, but perhaps I am being unfair.


vnjagvet said...

What a tragic loss. He sounds like such a wonderful, perceptive person who was giving back to his profession.

This type of crime is particularly difficult to solve, however. No witnesses, and shotgun pellets are difficult to trace, unlike ballistic weapons.

Circumstantial cases take time to develop. See, e.g. Lacy Peterson.

Syl said...

Jamie, what a horrible loss and a shock for you. I'm so sorry that violence has hit you so close.

I couldn't even begin to guess what/how the police are handling this or any other incident in your town. Or what the upswing in violence may mean...it may mean nothing more than a statistical short term bump.

You are in my thoughts, stay steady, and please keep us informed.

Jamie Irons said...

Thanks, syl, and vnjagvet, for your kind thoughts.

The first (of what will probably be many) of the patients I shared with Dr. Polonsky called me today and we had a long talk. Obviously this is harder on his patients than it is on anyone outside his family and immediate circle of close friends.

redrose said...

I knew Ira 40 years ago, and I wanted
to see him again as I come to CA for
my 60 birthday. Ronnie, my heart to you. Chris