An FBI fugitive is now in custody Tuesday morning after a nationwide manhunt ended in San Francisco in front of unsuspecting people, and it was captured on cell phone tape. But some of the details about why he was wanted are still murky. Today in the Bay’s Peggy Bunker has more.
The San Francisco media consultant at the center of a national FBI manhunt has been arrested, FBI officials tell NBC Bay Area, capping a three-day manhunt that reached far beyond the Bay Area.
The FBI had been looking for Ryan Kelly Chamberlain II, 42, a well-known social media expert and political consultant, since Saturday, when sources said FBI officials discovered explosives and a chemical that can be deadly in his Russian Hill apartment on Polk Street.
San Francisco police arrested Chamberlain at 6:22 p.m. after officers on routine patrol at Crissy Field spotted a white Nissan and recognized the plates, according to sources close to the investigation.
Chamberlain did not resist arrest.
Police and FBI agents at about 6:40 p.m. began searching Chamberlain's car to make sure no explosives were in the vehicle. A bomb squad was also seen using a robot to search the car.
Earlier in the day, FBI officials confirmed a "credible sighting" of Chamberlain at about 4 p.m. at the Mad Dog in the Fog bar in San Francisco's Haight district. A person spotted Chamberlain and called 911, according to the FBI.
Agents responded to the area and were conducting interviews late Monday afternoon.
Officials had earlier called Chamberlain "armed and dangerous," but on Monday, two sources told NBC News that Chamberlain was no longer considered an immediate threat to public safety, hours after an apparent suicide note and a tweet from the man's accounts appeared online.
A message posted Monday to a Twitter account carrying Chamberlain's name said "nothing they're reporting is true."
A panicked update to my letter that should have posted by now. Nothing they're reporting is true. No "stashes." Not "armed and...
— Ryan Chamberlain (@poliholic) June 2, 2014
An apparent suicide note titled “Goodbye” was also posted to an iCloud account. The source of both messages could not be independently verified by NBC Bay Area, and the FBI declined to comment on the three-page letter, timed to go out on Monday through the social media management system Hootsuite.
Various media outlets, including SF Weekly, reported that the note was sent out on Facebook. But by noon on Monday, that note was not on Chamberlain's Facebook page, though several posters were referencing it and sending out the iCloud link.
The note discusses Chamberlain's depression, his mother, whom it calls a "religious addict," and a time in 2003 when he was "left out" of getting any credit for helping California's Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom win his San Francisco mayoral seat in 2003.
The letter also discussed his two needs in life: "A person and a purpose." "All I ever wanted was someone to be madly in love with," the letter states. "Everyone wants that. Lots of people get it. But it always eluded me."
The letter says that if anyone was reading the note, which he said was posted on Hootsuite delay, "that means we probably don't know each other anymore, and I owe everyone an explanation."
The two sources told NBC News that the FBI, taking an abundance of caution, issued a nationwide alert to federal, state and local law enforcement to make sure officers are aware of and take a "defensive posture" in dealing with Chamberlain, given the explosive materials recovered from his home Saturday.
In addition, the sources told NBC News that Chamberlain has family in multiple states, so they wanted to cast a broad net, though they thought he most likely was still in Northern California.
FBI spokesman Peter Lee said Sunday, in an effort to dispel some rumors, that agents had not found any ricin or other chemical or biological threats in the home. "He did possess explosives at his residence," however, Lee added.
Mark Mosher, creative director of San Francisco consulting firm BMWL, said Chamberlain had been hired by almost every local political consulting firm at one point or another. He has known Chamberlain through years of working on various campaigns together.
"I think for somebody to post publicly that this is a misunderstanding," Mosher said. "They ought to give him room to try to turn himself in and work it out."
During the 2012 NFL season, Chamberlain was an independent contractor for the San Francisco Chronicle and tweeted and posted links to Facebook to boost coverage for the San Francisco 49ers Insider iPad app, according to the Chronicle.
Most recently, he worked in public relations for several Bay Area tech, apparel and marketing companies.
Chamberlain, a Bay Area native, attended Iowa State University before embarking on a career as a music journalist in Des Moines, according to his online resume. He later moved to San Francisco, and at age 30, he made a bid for a spot on the Republican Party County Central Committee in San Francisco, an organization that governs the local party and doles out critical endorsements.
The past chair of the San Francisco Republican Party, Howard Epstein, told NBC Bay Area, however, that Chamberlain had switched parties and become a Democrat.
Epstein said he was absolutely stunned at the news surrounding Chamberlain.
“To have the explosives and all that is just totally mind-boggling to me,” Epstein said. “I’m hoping that he turns himself in. I hope he doesn’t get into any more trouble. I don’t know what he’s thinking. I don’t know what he’s been doing the last few years, what’s going on in his head. I’m just hoping that this all comes out and nobody gets hurt.”
NBC News' Andrew Blankstein and NBC Bay Area's Diane Dwyer, Riya Bhattacharjee, Vince Cestone, Kimberly Tere and Kristofer Noceda contributed to this report.