Updated at 10:51 p.m. ET
High-profile private investigator Jack Palladino has died from injuries sustained last Thursday when two men attempted to steal his camera last Thursday.
Palladino, 76, was attacked outside his home in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood around 4:40 p.m. Sandra Sutherland, Palladino’s wife and investigative partner, said their home is in a high-crime area and packages from people’s homes were often snatched up.
Sutherland told NPR her husband must have seen a theft in progress from his street-facing office and darted out of the house to document the event. He left his glasses in the house, she explained, so they wouldn’t be bumped by the camera’s viewfinder. She believes the culprits caught Palladino snapping their photo and rushed over to grab the evidence. “He would never back off from anything,” Sutherland said. “That’s who he was.’
The perpetrators attempted to wrestle the camera from Palladino, but he resisted, a San Francisco Police statement said. Palladino fell to ground and hit his head on the pavement. Unable to retrieve the camera, the men sped off in a vehicle.
It all happened so fast, Sutherland explained. She was upstairs in her pottery room when her husband ran out the door. A witness to the assault flagged down a passing ambulance for help. Sutherland didn’t hear a thing, not even a siren, she said. “He was conscious for a few minutes after, to tell those on scene that his name was Jack,” Sutherland said. “Then he slipped into a coma from which he never recovered.”
Palladino was rushed to the hospital and taken into surgery. He had suffered a traumatic brain injury, Sutherland said. Palladino was placed on life support on Thursday evening.
The police were examining Palladino’s photos while he fought for his life in the hospital. His photos aided police in the swift arrest of the suspects in the days that followed. Lawrence Thomas, 24, of Pittsburg, was taken into custody in San Francisco the following day. Twenty-three-year-old Tyjone Flournoy, of San Francisco, was caught on Saturday in Reno, Nev., according to the SFPD.
Thomas and Flournoy were transported to San Francisco County Jail and face charges of attempted robbery, aggravated kidnapping, assault with a deadly weapon, conspiracy, false imprisonment, elder abuse and great bodily injury enhancement.
Palladino spent several days on life support. On Sunday, Sutherland said, “We removed him from life support and he was breathing on his own, but everything was slowly shutting down,” she said. He died Monday at 12:08 p.m.
The private investigator was well known for his work with John DeLorean, Bill Clinton and Courtney Love. He was working undercover in a New York City jail in 1971 when he met Sutherland. She too was working undercover as an investigator. They were married in 1977.
Palladino and Sutherland spent the next 44 years living and working together. They started their own private investigation firm, Palladino and Sutherland Inc. The couple were retired, but Palladino occasionally worked a case to help someone in need, Sutherland said. They had homes in San Francisco as well as in Italy and Australia. Before the pandemic struck last year, the couple had planned to split their time among the three. “He was basically retired and loving it,” Sutherland said. “He took to it like a duck to water, taking photos, walking around and reading. It’s a pity he didn’t get to enjoy it.”