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San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi Died from Cocaine, Alcohol Toxicity, Coroner says

Reporters given crime scene photographs by San Francisco officers?

By Matthew Keys, March 26, 2019 7:26 am

Former San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi died last month from a toxic combination of cocaine and alcohol, according to a coroner’s report released over the weekend.

The report said Adachi’s cause of death was “acute mixed drug toxicity with cocaine and ethanol,” or a drug overdose in which cocaine and alcohol played significant roles. In addition to the drugs and alcohol, Adachi had a heart condition known as hypertensive atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease that contributed to his death, the coroner’s report says.

The report was released by the San Francisco Medical Examiner’s Office exactly one month after Adachi’s death. The report included a narrative from police investigators that shed light on the final hours of the public defender’s life.

Based on interviews with several witnesses, on Feb. 22, Adachi started his day around 6 a.m. when he told his wife he was going to the gym. That would be the last time Adachi’s wife would see him alive, though she would not be the last person to interact with him before his death.

According to the report, Adachi spent the remainder of his day with a different woman. That woman was not identified in the report, though several local television stations have identified her as “Catarina” based on a police report leaked to reporters shortly after Adachi’s death.

The report says Adachi and his companion had breakfast together around 11 a.m. The companion said nothing seemed out of the ordinary that morning, and at some point in the afternoon she and Adachi consumed cannabis edibles.

Around 4 p.m., the pair went to dinner near Coit Tower in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood. During the meal, Adachi reportedly complained of abdominal pain and started sweating. The companion suggested going to an area hospital, but Adachi refused, and the pair took a ride share vehicle back to a nearby apartment.

The companion reportedly said Adachi stripped down to his underwear, laid on a bed and asked the woman to go to the store for some Zantac. When she returned, she said he was still in pain, became very confused and eventually blacked out. She called 9-1-1 and was asked to perform CPR, the report said.

Investigators wrote that paramedics continued CPR on Adachi when they arrived, administered Narcan and epinephrine, shocked him multiple times with a defibrillator and placed a tube down his throat. A faint pulse was recorded before it was lost, the report said. He was transported to an area hospital where he was pronounced dead.

When investigators attempted to contact his companion later in the evening, she told them by phone she was having dinner and was unwilling to meet them back at the apartment, the report said.

Adachi’s wife told medical officials her husband drank about four times a week and smoked tobacco on social occasions, but otherwise did not have a history of illicit drug use, investigators wrote. Though cocaine was said to have played a role in Adachi’s death, the report did not say when the public defender was suspected of taking the drug.

Law enforcement officials say Adachi’s death is the subject of an ongoing investigation, though they have no reason to believe foul play was involved.

The former public defender’s death has drawn significant media attention in no small part thanks to the numerous photographs, police reports and other source materials leaked to television news reporters in the days following his passing. Earlier this month, one such reporter, KGO-TV’s Dan Noyes, refused to disclose whether crime scene photographs published by his news organization were handed to him by members of the San Francisco Police Department whose officers would normally have custody of such evidence.

The autopsy report released last weekend strongly suggests reporters like Noyes were, in fact, given the source materials by San Francisco officers: One page of the report describes how more than 150 crime scene photographs taken by two San Francisco police investigators were transferred to the custody of Sgt. Timothy Kiely of the agency’s homicide unit.

Those photos were transferred to Sgt. Kiely around 3 p.m., the report said. Several crime scene photos were published by KGO and Noyes several hours later.

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