Tyjone Flournoy, left, and Lawrence Thomas made their first appearance in court Tuesday in the death of detective Jack Palladino. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Tyjone Flournoy, left, and Lawrence Thomas made their first appearance in court Tuesday in the death of detective Jack Palladino. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Prosecutors reveal new details in fatal attack on private detective

Mayor joins law enforcement leaders to decry recent violence against seniors

The two men arrested in the death of San Francisco private detective Jack Palladino were driving slowly down a closed street in a “suspicious” vehicle when the storied investigator snapped a photo of their car and was attacked, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Palladino had rushed outside his home in the Haight last Thursday to take a picture of the gold Acura when the car turned around, pulled alongside him and a passenger attempted to wrestle the camera from the detective, according to court records and previous statements from his family.

He was dragged about 40 feet down the road when the Acura accelerated, with the passenger holding onto the camera strap still wrapped around the detective, prosecutors said. Palladino fell backward and struck his head, suffering a fractured skull.

The new details were included in a motion filed by the District Attorney’s Office seeking to detain Tyjone Flournoy, 23, and Lawrence Thomas, 24, without bail in connection with the attack on Page Street near Masonic Avenue.

The duo appeared in court for the first time Tuesday on a slew of charges as serious as attempted murder. They are expected to face murder charges after Palladino’s cause of death is determined by the medical examiner, prosecutors said.

Palladino, 76, was known for his long career representing famous clients from Bill Clinton to Harvey Weinstein. His family has said he was “instrumental” in helping police identify the suspects in his own attack by photographing them.

District Attorney Chesa Boudin reiterated the importance of his camerawork at a press conference Tuesday.

“Mr. Palladino was a San Francisco legend, someone who dedicated his career to pursing justice and truth,” Boudin said. “It is fitting that his own camera helped capture evidence that we expect will help us prove this case to a jury.”

The photo showed the gold Acura with “distinctive damage,” an “irregular paint job” and stolen license plate, prosecutors said.

Jack Palladino, a nationally known private detective with a long list of celebrity clients, was killed outside his home in the Haight. (Courtesy photo)

Jack Palladino, a nationally known private detective with a long list of celebrity clients, was killed outside his home in the Haight. (Courtesy photo)

Palladino was one of two elderly men attacked in San Francisco last Thursday who later died.

The other man, 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee, was knocked to the ground by a man who sprinted toward him in the Anza Vista area in an incident captured on surveillance video. Antoine Watson, 19, has since been arrested and charged with murder.

The attacks prompted Mayor London Breed to gather Boudin and police Chief Bill Scott for a virutal press conference Tuesday to present a united front against the recent violence.

“Let’s dispel the myth right now that there are no consequences for committing crimes in San Francisco,” Breed said. “San Francisco police are on heightened alert and will pursue every case vigorously if you try to rob or attack members of our community.”

“The district attorney will hold you accountable and you will feel the full weight of the law, she added.”

Scott issued a warning to those who believe San Francisco is an “easy touch” to “think twice.”

“We will bring every resource to bear to bring you to account and we won’t rest until that’s done,” Scott said.

Police allege Tyjone Flournoy, left, struggled with Jack Palladino while trying to take the older man’s camera. Lawrence Thomas was allegedly driving the vehicle in which Flournoy was riding. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>

Police allege Tyjone Flournoy, left, struggled with Jack Palladino while trying to take the older man’s camera. Lawrence Thomas was allegedly driving the vehicle in which Flournoy was riding. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Prosecutors also revealed Tuesday that Thomas was the alleged driver of the Acura, while Flournoy was the alleged passenger who struggled with Palladino. The car had a stolen license plate attached at the time of the encounter.

But when police found the Acura outside Flournoy’s address in Bayview-Hunters Point the afternoon after the attempted robbery, prosecutors said the duo had swapped the license plate for one registered to Thomas to “evade detection.”

Police were watching the car last Friday when Thomas came out to the vehicle and was arrested. Flournoy was taken into custody the following day on an arrest warrant after authorities say he fled the state to Reno, Nevada.

Deputy Public Defender Kleigh Hathaway, an attorney representing Thomas, said her office has just begun to recieve information about the allegations.

“We understand the public interest in this case, and we ask that people keep an open mind as we learn more through the legal process,” Hathaway said. “I have had the privilege of speaking with Mr. Thomas, who just turned 24 years old. His family was in court today to support him and I will continue to support him in the proceedings ahead.”

An attorney Flournoy did not respond to request a request for comment by press time.

Both men have criminal histories. Flournoy was on probation at the time of the attempted robbery for a misdemeanor gun conviction out of San Francisco, a felony burglary from San Mateo and a Santa Clara trespassing case, court records show.

Thomas has three felony second-degree burglary convictions dating back to 2015 from San Francisco, Alameda and Sacramento counties.

The two men are scheduled to return to court next Wednesday to enter pleas and determine whether they will remain in custody pending trial.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

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