A San Francisco journalist said Sunday authorities knocked down the gate of his home with a sledgehammer, handcuffed him for hours and seized thousands of dollars in electronics after he refused to identify a confidential source.
The journalist, Bryan Carmody, said in an interview that the raid occurred Friday — though officers from the San Francisco Police Department first asked him two weeks ago about who provided a police report that revealed details of the death of the city’s longtime public defender, Jeff Adachi, in February.
The city’s medical examiner determined that trace amounts of cocaine and alcohol found in Adachi’s system contributed to a heart attack that killed him.
Carmody, 49, a freelancer, said he sold the leaked story — which included photos from the apartment where Adachi was found unresponsive — to some local news outlets. After the leak was denounced by elected officials and Adachi’s widow, who called it “despicable,” a department commander apologized and said the leaker would be held accountable.
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When the officers arrived at Carmody’s home, he said, “They asked me to give them the source. Of course, I declined.”
When authorities returned Friday, Carmody said officers had a warrant that appeared to say they were looking for the report, which was described as “stolen or embezzled” property.
Carmody said he was handcuffed for seven hours while officers took his equipment and obtained another warrant to search his office.
“They took every electronic device that I own — every computer, every hard drive, every digital photograph that I have taken in the last 25 years,” he said.
“Today’s actions are one step in the process of investigating a potential case of obstruction of justice along with the illegal distribution of a confidential police report," it said.
The local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists condemned the raid, saying it “shows an alarming disregard for the right to gather and report on information.” The group said it was seeking more information on why the department did not follow California’s shield laws, which protects journalists who refuse to disclose a source’s identity.
Carmody said he’s had a good working relationship with the police department for years. Now, he just wants his equipment back.
“At this point, they’ve shut down my business completely,” he said. “I don’t have the gear I need to do my job.”
Tim Stelloh is a reporter for NBC News, based in California.