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SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — If your cellphone is stolen, what are the chance the police will go after the thief? Pretty slim right?
But, when Apple loses a phone, it can be a different story altogether.
On one recent morning, Rick Garcia and his wife Shannon Knuth woke up to a posse of San Francisco police officers at their front door.
“I peered through the peephole and I saw a police officer and a battering ram,” Garcia said.
“We heard ‘SFPD’ and ‘warrant,’ and I was like ‘what’s going on?’” Knuth remembers.
It felt like a nightmare yet it was real.
Garcia says that within seconds he was dragged into the hallway of his apartment complex, handcuffed, then whisked away to the Taraval Station.
“All my instincts to defend myself, defend my wife, defend my dog, needed to be supressed in order to have the best outcome,” said Rick.
Meanwhile Knuth, who had just got out of the shower, was ordered to sit on the couch.
“I was just wrapped up in a towel,” Knuth said.
Even more humiliating was what the officers did when she asked for clothes.
“One officer went into my closet and they chose an outfit they got a bra and a thong and some stretchy pants and handed it to me and said ‘will this do?’” Knuth said.
Just one thought was racing through her mind: “That they had the wrong person,” she said.
After rifling through the apartment Knuth says the officers finally told her what they were looking for: Her husband’s iPhone X.
According to the warrant, it was stolen but Knuth showed them the receipt which proved her husband bought it.
Once the officers realized their mistake they called the police station and a squad car brought Garcia home.
“They gathered their pry bar and their battering ram and they left,” he said.
So how could a mistake like that happen?
It’s still unclear but it turns out Garcia and Knuth bought the iPhone at an Apple store at Stonestown Galleria just a few weeks after 300 iPhone Xs were stolen from a UPS truck in the mall parking lot.
“It kind of boggles the mind the way San Francisco police handled this,” said Tom Burns.
Tom Burns is a security consultant and former police chief. “Obviously there was some mix up on the original theft from November. The police should have realized this and done more due diligence,” Burns said.
Starting with the suspect descriptions in the actual UPS heist.
“Mr. Garcia is about 5 feet, 120 pounds. The three suspects were very big and husky according to the police report. This was clearly an incident that should have just been a knock and talk, a couple detectives come to the door, knock on the door and they would have gathered the same info that they gathered after they put him in handcuffs and hauled him off to jail,” Burns said.
In a statement to KPIX, San Francisco police confirm “there was an individual detained, upon further investigation it was determined no criminal misconduct had occurred and the individual was released.” But they offered no comment on what led to the mistake.
Apple had no comment either — an insult to Rick and Shannon, who are major fans of the company’s products. Rick over the years bought the first iPhone, the first iPad and the first Apple Watch. “We want Apple to recognize how harmful this was to us,” he says.
As for heavy-handed tactics by the San Francisco police: “I am not surprised. This has been their typical M.O. here in San Francisco,” Garcia said.
Garcia is still recovering from a wrist injury he received from the handcuffs. It’s affecting his design work as an architect for a prominent local firm — a firm that, ironically, does a lot of contract work for Apple.
“I realize how dangerous the situation was. If I had reacted differently it could have had a horrible outcome. I had dreams where I did react differently,” Garcia said.
He adds he didn’t even know what he was being accused of until the squad car brought him back home because the police wouldn’t tell him. And he says no one ever read him his rights.