The police report on Jeff Adachi’s heart attack was leaked to the press, detailing “suspicions about the handling of the case.” But was this just some final sour grapes stemming from longstanding tensions between Adachi and the SFPD?
Friday night’s tragic and unexpected death of SF Public Defender Jeff Adachi continues to sadden City Hall and the city of San Francisco. But two local news organizations are reporting very personal details about the circumstances of Adachi’s passing, adding that the local police department has “suspicions about the handling of the case,” and are looking into “the whereabouts of a woman he was with” when Adachi suffered a heart attack Friday night at an apartment in North Beach.
The San Francisco Chronicle’s account — which is quick to say in its headline that no foul play is actually suspected — details that Adachi had dinner with an unidentified woman Friday in North Beach. She called 911 to report a medical emergency at 5:41 p.m. Adachi was rushed to California Pacific Medical Center on Buchanan Street, and pronounced dead at 6:54 p.m. Police were dispatched to the scene of the incident at 8:37 p.m., were then reportedly called off by the medical examiner, but clearly did investigate the scene at some point.
Once SFPD was on the scene, according to the Chronicle, “a woman met the officers and let them into a unit that Adachi had recently arranged to use for the weekend, according to the preliminary report. Inside, officers took pictures of alcohol, cannabis-infused gummies and syringes believed to have been used by the paramedics.”
None of that is inherently illegal, and those seem like pretty unusual details to leak to the media in a case like this. But it gets even stranger.
KGO somehow has a photograph of the apartment in question, and identifies the woman involved simply by her first name “Caterina.” While KGO’s Dan Noyes did not interview Caterina, he did talk to realtor Susie Kurtz, who’d rented the apartment to Adachi and describes herself as a longtime "platonic" friend. Kurtz says that when the incident occurred, Caterina “was hysterical and she said, Susie, Susie, Susie, something is wrong with Jeff, please come. I don't know what to do."
The SFPD apparently finds it suspicious that they weren’t called in more quickly, according to the incident report obtained by KGO. "Based on the suspicious nature of the call, I phoned the medical examiner." Officer Adrian Payne writes in the report. "He did not have reason to believe 46 Telegraph Place contained a crime scene but the death was still under investigation."
But Payne then notes that police did still proceed to that apartment “to locate a possible crime scene".
KGO’s reporting also tells us that Adachi’s medical problems were quietly known. Acting public defender Matt Gonzales told the station that Adachi had “a persistent cough” during his most recent trail, and that he had been seeing a specialist to address the condition.
There is absolutely nothing in these reports that shows real malfeasance, though we should note that the investigation is ongoing. Still, it’s curious that we’re reading leaked details about another “woman,” the renting of an apartment, and entirely unnecessary mentions of alcohol, cannabis, and syringes. Certainly the incident ought to be investigated, as any death should, but the information coming out makes it seem like Adachi’s decades-old battles with law enforcement — on behalf of defendants and otherwise — may continue even after his passing.
His autopsy was conducted Sunday. According to KRON 4, the San Francisco Medical Examiner issued a statement saying, “It will be several weeks before the case is finalized and at that time, the report will become available."
Adachi was 59, and is survived by his wife Mutsuko and daughter Lauren. His colleagues have organized a public vigil to honor him Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at the public defender’s office, 555 Seventh Street.
Related: How Jeff Adachi changed San Francisco [Chronicle]