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S.F. Man Indicted on Gun, Destructive Device Charges

| June 13, 2014
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Update, 3 p.m. Friday: The U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Francisco announced the charges against 42-year-old Ryan Chamberlain. The San Francisco political and media consultant was arrested last week after a three-day manhunt that authorities say was prompted by the discovery of bomb-making materials at his apartment.

The indictment alleges possession of a destructive device, and replaces a criminal complaint that accused Chamberlain of trying to build a remote-controlled bomb. The indictment also charges Chamberlain with possessing a handgun without serial numbers.

Chamberlain’s public defender didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment. He is expected to return to court Monday and Tuesday for a detention hearing and arraignment.

Chamberlain faces up to 10 years in prison if he’s convicted.

- The Associated Press

Here’s the indictment:

Update, 12:20 p.m. Tuesday June 3:

The criminal complaint against Chamberlain has been made public after Judge Nathanael Cousins unsealed it Tuesday morning. Chamberlain is being charged with possession of an illegal destructive device.

After a press conference at 8:30 a.m., where few questions were answered about potential charges or evidence, federal agents said off the record to a group of reporters that an explosive device had been found in Chamberlain’s Russian Hill apartment, according to KQED’s Bryan Goebel, who was on the scene. When Chamberlain made his first court appearance later this morning, Cousins criticized federal prosecutor Philip Kearney for arguing that the complaint documents should remain sealed at the same time details were being leaked to the media.

According to the complaint, FBI Special Agent Michael Eldridge met with Chamberlain in a coffee shop on May 31, where Chamberlain admitted “that he was aware of the Tor network, and that he sometimes played poker on ‘black market’ websites.” Chamberlain was then allowed to leave the coffee shop and returned to his apartment, but agents following him called off the pursuit when he drove recklessly through stoplights and at a high speed. Acting on a search warrant, agents then entered Chamberlain’s apartment. The complaint outlines what was found there, including:

- a screw-top glass jar containing batteries and a powdery green substance
- a model rocket motor lodged within the green powdery substance
- an “electric match,” a common igniter for improvised explosive devices (IEDs)
- an assortment of ball bearings and screws believed to be intended projectiles
- a wire extending from the glass jar attached to the metal lid of the jar
- a circuit board, configured as a remote-controlled receiver

According to the complaint, all the components necessary to comprise an IED were found in his apartment and it was believed that a destructive device was designed to “maim or kill a human being or human beings.”

Read the full complaint against Chamberlain online.

Update, 7:20 a.m. Tuesday June 3: The FBI and San Francisco police will hold a joint press conference at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday to discuss the arrest of Ryan Chamberlain. He’s the former San Francisco political consultant wanted on explosives charges after a raid on his apartment over the weekend. He was taken into custody (see the video above) Monday night near Crissy Field.

Friends have started a Ryan Chamberlain Legal Defense Fund on crowdfunding site Crowdtilt. The campaign administrator is Adriel Hampton, business development director for NationBuilder, which offers software for political organizers.

Hampton’s fundraising pitch: “Ryan Chamberlain is part of the San Francisco political family and he’s got a great community of friends. He’s a great guy who broke a little bad. Let’s help him out.” On Twitter, Hampton invites contributions “if you’re against an out of control police state.”

By early Tuesday morning, the fund had raised $4,570 $5,620 $5,870.

Update, 8:25 p.m. Monday June 2: The FBI has confirmed that Ryan Chamberlain, the subject of a manhunt since explosives were allegedly found in his San Francisco apartment on Saturday, has been arrested.

Ryan K. Chamberlain II, wanted in connection  in photo released by FBI.

Ryan K. Chamberlain II, wanted in connection with explosives probe, shown in photo released by FBI.

Morgan Manos, identified in media reports as an Uber driver who was parked near the scene of the arrest at Crissy Field, shot a video of the end of the arrest (embedded in KGO-TV report above). Manos is quoted by the San Francisco Chronicle’s Peter Fimrite as saying that Chamberlain was panicked as police and federal agents closed in.

Following the account of Twitter user ScannerSays, San Francisco police made the arrest after spotting Chamberlain at Crissy Field shortly after 6 p.m. Police requested backup, reported “the subject is resisting arrest,” and followed that report with requests for the police explosive disposal detail, Fire Department units and medical assistance.

Update, 6:25 p.m. Monday June 2: Several news outlets are reporting that the FBI is investigating the possibility Ryan Chamberlain, the fugitive political consultant/PR pro wanted on explosives charges, visited a bar on Haight Street on Monday afternoon.

CBS San Francisco reports:

The bartender at The Mad Dog in the Fog bar at 530 Haight Street told KPIX 5 that FBI agents were in the bar earlier Monday afternoon.

Agents questioned bar staff and informed them Chamberlain was inside the bar around 2 p.m. and got cash out of the ATM. The bartender said that the agents told her that they believed Chamberlain might be at an establishment nearby drinking. …

…FBI Agency spokesperson Peter Lee said, “We take every lead very seriously. When there is a sighting, we will deploy agents and police officers to that area. We’re running down every lead.”

Original post on June 2: The FBI is withholding comment on a message purportedly posted by a San Francisco political consultant and PR professional who is a fugitive in an explosives investigation.

On Saturday, federal agents raided the San Francisco apartment of Ryan Kelly Chamberlain II, where they reportedly found illegal explosives. The FBI says Chamberlain fled and was last seen driving somewhere south of the city.

As noted in the San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere, Chamberlain was active as a consultant to several political campaigns in the city between 2002 and 2009, including Gavin Newsom’s first campaign for mayor in 2003. SF Weekly’s Joe Eskinazi notes that Chamberlain was accused of being behind at least one campaign low blow aimed at former Supervisor Chris Daly. Chamberlain’s friends and acquaintances have taken to social media to express shock at the FBI’s allegations against him.

Early Monday, a long missive purportedly posted to an iCloud account by Chamberlain speaks at length of his personal and professional disappointments.

“I’ve isolated two things I need,” the letter says. “A person and a purpose.” It continues:

All I’ve ever wanted was someone to be madly in love with, to go through life with in that great, dedicated relationship. Then, all I needed was a great reason to get up everyday. Some great work to do. That’s pretty easy. Everyone wants that. Lots of people get it.

But it always eluded me. I’d give my all to a girl and she’d take it and run. I’d bust my ass at a job, but the company would fail, the economy would drop out, the campaign would lose … or it would win and leave me behind. As I hustled year in and year out, fought through another failed relationship with someone who cheated and/or left, and scrambled for another half-ass job that didn’t work out, my mental state got more stressed and panicked. I don’t know if my depression caused the outcome, or if the outcome built on the depression, but the result is the same.

The message also says that the writer was close to running out of money and only recently had a job prospect after more than a year of searching. As a result, the letter says, “I got dark. I got real dark. I explored myriad ways I could put an end to what I was going through. I binge-watched dark TV, sometimes didn’t get off the couch for days, and scoured the Internet absorbing fuel for morbid fantasies.”

And in what appears to be a direct allusion to the Saturday FBI raid of Chamberlain’s apartment at Polk and Jackson streets, the note says, “Some of that activity seemed to attract the attention of some visitors today … who made it rather evident that this is the end of the line for me.”

Peter Lee, the FBI’s spokesman in San Francisco, said Monday the FBI has no comment on the purported Chamberlain message posted Monday.

Lee said agents joined by San Francisco police and fire personnel executed a search warrant at Chamberlain’s apartment, which he said officials believed has “a criminal nexus to a federal crime.” Lee said Chamberlain is alleged to possess explosive materials. The bureau’s alert for Chamberlain describes him as armed and dangerous.

A follow-up message posted on Chamberlain’s Twitter account, @poliholic, denied the FBI’s account:

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Category: Law

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About the Author ()

Dan Brekke has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at dbrekke@kqed.org.
  • Ty Gerhardt

    I’ve always said, “You are the common element in all of your failures.”

    • Chris Stott

      Not sure if he’d disagree with you. He sounds depressed, not in denial.

  • Mr. Mirth

    May the gods be kind to Mr. chamberlain, with better days ahead. His story sounds too familiar. I was considerably older than he is before I finally found a job that provides me with enough stability to make the daily drudge seem worth it.

  • Gozo

    Well based on this “evidence” I also can be charged with bomb making. The green powder is probably corrosion from old batteries being stored incorrectly. Unless they found high impact explosive material which it sounds like they did not then this is a sensationalized fishing expedition.

    • Emily Moses

      While reading the description of what was found, I was also alarmed. I know many people who are electronics hobbyists (In music, machinery, robotics, and flying robotics) and making a bomb is the furthest thing from their mind. But, if an untrained person walked into their house, they very well may take the supplies for “items to make a bomb with” even though that’s not what they’re being used for. Anyway, I’m very interested to see how Mr. Chamberlain’s case plays out. I think it’s well within the authority’s right to be alarmed.