A local TV news reporter was on a residential street near Twin Peaks Boulevard to report on brazen car break-ins in the area when he and his cameraman were robbed at gunpoint and their camera was stolen.
SF's crime wave continues, and we're back to thieves sticking up reporters and stealing expensive camera equipment — something that we've reported happening to local news crews numerous times in the last decade. KPIX reporter Don Ford was standing at Burnett Avenue near Twin Peaks Boulevard at 12:37 p.m. on Wednesday when he says a white luxury vehicle pulled up and three suspects got out.
Ford was on the scene to investigate a rash of car burglaries at the popular tourist spot.
"We didn't know that one of our own reporters would become part of this story," says anchor Elizabeth Cook in Wednesday night's broadcast.
"The car pulled up here as we were about to do an interview," Ford says. "Three guys jumped out, one of them had a gun, he put it up to my face and said 'We're taking the camera.'"
"My whole thought at the moment was 'Let's be calm. Let's not get this guy excited,'" Ford said, saying the suspect held a Glock pistol to his face. He added, "I don't think my adrenaline has come down yet."
A homeowner who was standing nearby saw the whole thing go down, and he tells KPIX that he chose not to make any noise or intervene. "I just said, 'I'm not going to get shot today.'"
That same homeowner tells the station that he feels that when so much brazen crime is allowed to occur, thieves will only become more brazen, as seen in this incident. And he seemed to blame the SFMTA for street closures, or lack thereof, that he thinks contributed to the situation.
Park Station police said on Twitter that the camera has already been recovered, but details on that are unclear and no arrests have been, as the Chronicle reports.
The camera was recovered. This incident remains an active and ongoing investigation. Anyone with information is asked to call the SFPD Tip Line at 1-415-575-4444 or Text a Tip to TIP411 and begin the text message with SFPD. You may remain anonymous. https://t.co/4nAcYrScPX— SFPD Park Station (@SFPDPark) March 4, 2021
Supervisor Rafael Mandelman tells the Chronicle, "Folks who are looking to break into cars are taking that opportunity to break into cars, and that has been a source of grievance for folks in that neighborhood. We’ve been hearing about concerns about crime and safety increasingly through last year and into this year. Not just from that neighborhood, but pretty much everywhere in my district, and I think other neighborhoods in the city as well."
In an interview with KPIX Mandelman called the incident "troubling" and "concerning" and "brazen."
And in a post on Facebook, Mandelman said, "We need to adequately resource our public safety agencies, adopt better strategies to stop repeat offenders and make clear that San Francisco is not a place that you can commit crimes and put people’s lives at risk with impunity."
The incident came just days after a Tik Tok celebrity, Nathan Apodaca, a.k.a. the Fleetwood Mac skateboarding guy, saw his family's rental cars robbed while they were parked near Twin Peaks. That ended up being covered on TMZ.
Thieves robbing TV news crews is nothing new, and the black market for their camera equipment must still be alive and well.
Another news crew, from NBC Bay Area, was robbed of a camera in San Francisco on February 6, just four weeks ago. As the SFPD explained in a release, the robbery happened on Bryant Street near the eastbound I-80 Bay Bridge onramp, and the thieves approached in a dark-colored Lexus.
Police soon found the suspects and the camera on Treasure Island, and arrested 18-year-old Ronnell Edward Johnson of Treasure Island and 21-year-old Romell Boyland of San Francisco, in the theft. The news camera was clearly visible in one of their vehicles, as was a "consumer-grade" camera in the backseat, which turned out to have been stolen on the 1300 block of Haight Street earlier that same day.
A KPIX news crew was similarly robbed in April 2019 in Oakland, and KPIX's Joe Vazquez and his camera guy were robbed of a camera just six weeks earlier, in February 2019, also in Oakland. They had a security with them at the time of the February incident, and that guard ended up getting shot in an altercation with the thieves.
Photo: David Barajas