Those who know the San Francisco man who was arrested Monday after his home was raided by authorities last weekend were shocked to learn that he was the subject of a massive FBI manhunt for allegedly harboring explosive materials in his Russian Hill apartment.
Ryan Kelly Chamberlain II has been rooted in the San Francisco political scene for more than a decade. Save for a few ominous messages sent through social-media outlets, the 42-year-old had essentially disappeared after the FBI served a search warrant Saturday at Chamberlain's home at Jackson and Polk streets.
The FBI had considered Chamberlain armed and dangerous. Chamberlain, who was wanted for allegedly possessing explosive materials, was taken into custody Monday evening after police located his vehicle near Crissy Field.
Chamberlain has worked on numerous campaigns in The City and dabbled in other local endeavors, including working as an adjunct professor teaching a grass-roots mobilization course at the University of San Francisco in spring 2011.
He has not been affiliated with the university since then, USF spokeswoman Anne-Marie Devine said.
A letter that appears to have been written by Chamberlain came to light Monday. It expresses a level of depression that surprised those who have worked with him.
Emily Murase, the Board of Education vice president who hired Chamberlain to be her campaign manager when she unsuccessfully ran for the school board in 2008, said he never displayed unusual behavior around her.
“He was perfectly professional,” Murase said. “He spoke with volunteers and did outreach — [what a] normal campaign manager would do.”
Chamberlain was referred to Murase by campaign consultants after he reportedly worked on Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom's mayoral campaign, Murase said. Newsom did not return calls seeking comment.
The last time Murase heard from Chamberlain was in 2010, when he wrote her a congratulatory email on winning a seat on the Board of Education.
Murase was saddened and surprised when she heard of the FBI search for Chamberlain.
“I was just shocked and speechless,” she said. “It's a terrible situation.”
Alex Clemens, founder of the Barbary Coast Consulting firm, first met Chamberlain in 2003 and said he thought of Chamberlain as a competent political operative who was savvy in social media and campaign management.
“I, like everybody else I've talked to, are stunned by the allegations,” Clemens said. “This isn't the Ryan that people have known.”
Chamberlain apparently got his start in politics as a teenager. He was the student body president his senior year at Johnston High School in Johnston, Iowa, where he graduated in 1989, said Laura Dillavou, a spokeswoman for the Johnston Community School District.
He also played sports and was in the National Honor Society his junior and senior years, according to Dillavou.
At Iowa State University, Chamberlain graduated in December 1993 with a double major in journalism and mass communications and political science, university spokeswoman Annette Hacker said.