SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A KPIX 5 reporter investigating a series of auto break-ins around Twin Peaks in San Francisco was robbed of his camera at gunpoint Wednesday.
Residents who live near the city landmark say car break-ins have been commonplace in the neighborhood since the San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Authority (SFMTA) closed the access road to the popular vista point to automobile traffic at the beginning of the pandemic.
On Wednesday afternoon, the smash-and-grabs turned into armed robbery. KPIX 5 reporter Don Ford was on the story Tuesday and again on Wednesday, and was preparing to interview nearby homeowners when a white luxury sedan with four men inside pulled up.
“The car came up here while we were about to do an interview, three guys jumped out,” said Ford. “One had a gun and put in my face and said, ‘We’re taking the camera.'”
The whole encounter with a Glock in his face took less than a minute. “My whole thought at the moment was be calm. Let’s not get this guy excited. He’s got the gun. I don’t. So you take you the camera. It’s yours Buddy.”
“I was worried that this is what’s gonna happen, because as thieves get more and more brazen, they do more and more brazenly things. I’m not making that up. We just had that experience today,” a neighbor who asked not to be identified told KPIX 5.
The homeowner Ford was preparing to interview stood very still as the scene unfolded in front of him.
“I just looked and I said, ‘I’m not going to get shot today,'” he said.
No one was injured, but everyone was shaken.
“I’m not sure my adrenaline has settled down yet,” Ford said.
The homeowner says the safety of the neighborhood has to be addressed and a priority going forward.
“You want to have that for open space? We want that, too. But protect us. We shouldn’t pay the penalty for that action that SFMTA caused upon us,” he said.
On Tuesday night, the SFMTA board voted to reopen one Twin Peaks access road at the Portola Ave. gate, but voted to keep the Burnett Ave. gate closed.
Supervisor Rafael Mandelman who represents the city’s District 8 which includes Twin Peaks said in a tweet that the robbery was “ridiculous and unacceptable … but not entirely unexpected.”
Earlier this afternoon a reporter was robbed at gunpoint at Twin Peaks Blvd & Burnett Ave while interviewing a resident about car break-ins in the area. @SFPD officers are working to find those responsible and recover the camera. This incident is ridiculous & unacceptable… 1/2
— Rafael Mandelman (@RafaelMandelman) March 3, 2021
In a statement Wednesday night, the SFMTA said, “We are saddened to hear about what happened to reporter, Don Ford, while covering the story today.”
The statement continued: “In an attempt to address these concerns, the south end gate at Portola Drive was opened in September daily between 6:00 p.m. and midnight to provide local access to the top of the peaks for people driving. However, some unresolved issues remain, so the SFMTA worked with the community and other city departments including Rec and Park, SFPD and Public Works on new ideas to ensure access and balance needs at Twin Peaks.”
The agency said a plan approved Tuesday by the SFMTA Board of Directors would “enhance safety and accessibility to the Twin Peaks area for all.”
San Francisco police said the camera, which had a tracking chip, was recovered later Wednesday, but further details were not immediately available.