Famed local private investigator Jack Palladino was doing what he does best on Thursday afternoon when he was violently attacked by a pair of teens — he was gathering evidence.
Palladino, whose clients over the years included Bill Clinton, Courtney Love, and Robin Williams, had a brand new camera he was trying out last week, and according to his wife and fellow detective Sandra Sutherland he had ran outside their home on the 1400 block of Page Street to photograph some people he believed were up to "mischief" in the neighborhood. As the Chronicle reports, via Sutherland, Palladino took off his reading glasses and "bolted" out the door, just before the attempted robbery that cost him his life.
A pair of suspects, now identified as 24-year-old Lawrence Thomas of Pittsburg and 23-year-old Tyjone Flournoy of San Francisco, allegedly tried steal Palladino's camera from him — possibly after seeing him snap shots of them. And Palladino's own photos may have been pivotal in their arrests by the SFPD. Thomas was taken into custody Friday, and Fluornoy apparently fled the state and was arrested Saturday in Reno, and booked into SF County Jail on Sunday.
"They gunned him down [with the car] and tried to get the camera, which they failed to do,” Sutherland tells the Chronicle. “Because Jack wouldn’t let go."
Reportedly, Palladino, 76, tussled with the assailants and was dragged by their car. He also hit his head hard on the pavement, and was only briefly conscious as he lay in the street afterward. He was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries and a brain bleed, and was taken off of life support on Sunday. As Sutherland said, "Jack’s a hard person to keep down. But I really think this is it."
She tells the paper that she told her unconscious husband on Saturday that his own photographs may help solve the case. "I said, 'Guess what, Jack, they got the bastards, and it was all your doing.'"
On Monday afternoon, KRON4 confirmed that Palladino had died from his injuries.
Neither suspect had been charged as of early Monday, but both were being held on suspicion of attempted robbery, aggravated kidnapping, assault with a deadly weapon, conspiracy, false imprisonment and elder abuse, as well as an enhancement for causing great bodily injury. A homicide has now occurred, and the charges will change to reflect that.
Palladino's stepson Nick Chapman had earlier said that Palladino was simply out testing out his new camera when he the attempted robbery occurred.
Flournoy reportedly has an extensive rap sheet, and he was one of four suspects implicated in the December 2019 killing of Ronisha Cook, on Ellis Street in the Tenderloin. Ultimately, the DA's office only had enough evidence to charge two of the suspects with Cook's murder, though further charges could be pending against Flournoy in that case.
As the Associated Press reports, Palladino and Sutherland worked as a team out of their Upper Haight Victorian since the 1980s, working on behalf of the rich and powerful in a variety of high-profile cases.
Palladino rose to fame early when he was hired by the Hearst family following the 1974 kidnapping of Patty Hearst by the Symbionese Liberation Army, while he was still a law student at UC Berkeley. He would go on to be hired by the Clinton campaign in 1992 to squelch rumors of his extramarital affairs, and by Courtney Love to investigate journalists who were probing whether she had a role in the death of Kurt Cobain.
He was lauded for his role in helping defend tobacco industry whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand in the 1990s, conducting a counter-investigation that uncovered the industry's smear campaign against Wigand — which helped win the first successful litigation against Big Tobacco.
In a 1999 profile by the Examiner, Palladino is described as a PI who "built a reputation for aggressive investigations, an in-your-face style and the ability to neutralize adverse witnesses and spin hostile media." In some cases, this reportedly included intimidation and unsavory tactics to silence those were writing things that were unfriendly or damaging to his clients.
Palladino bristled at the word "intimidation," though, and said, "I don't need fear and intimidation. I don't carry a gun. I don't beat people up... I am sure that there are people who would say that I intimidated them because I said to them, 'You are lying.' I am sure there are witnesses who have felt intimidated because an unpleasant truth is about to come out about them."
Most recently, as the New York Post reported, Palladino was listed to be deposed last year by an accuser of Harvey Weinstein, in a case that followed the criminal trial that sent Weinstein to prison last February. Weinstein reportedly hired Palladino to investigate his accusers and journalists investigating him.
Sutherland tells the Chronicle that Palladino was working on one last case before joining her in retirement.
Photo: Nick Chapman via the Examiner
This post has been updated following confirmation of Palladino's death.