For lost iPhone, SFPD wants bar's surveillance video

San Francisco Police have asked owners of Cava 22, the bar where an Apple employee lost an unreleased iPhone in July, to see their surveillance video. Are there images of what happened to the missing device?

Greg Sandoval Declan McCullagh
Greg Sandoval Former Staff writer
Greg Sandoval covers media and digital entertainment for CNET News. Based in New York, Sandoval is a former reporter for The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. E-mail Greg, or follow him on Twitter at @sandoCNET.
Declan McCullagh Former Senior Writer
Declan McCullagh is the chief political correspondent for CNET. You can e-mail him or follow him on Twitter as declanm. Declan previously was a reporter for Time and the Washington bureau chief for Wired and wrote the Taking Liberties section and Other People's Money column for CBS News' Web site.
4 min read
The owners of Cava 22, the San Francisco bar where an Apple employee lost an unreleased iPhone in July, say police are interested in seeing their surveillance footage. Greg Sandoval/CNET

San Francisco Police have asked the owners of the bar where an Apple employee lost an unreleased iPhone for permission to review the bar's surveillance footage, CNET has learned. The request is likely part of an internal police probe into how officers assisted Apple in searching for the missing handset, a police spokesman said.

Jose Valle, whose family owns Cava 22, a popular bar-restaurant in the city's Mission District, told CNET Friday that officers from the San Francisco Police Department visited the bar about a week ago and left a message that they wanted to see his surveillance video from July 21 and 22 as part of their lost iPhone case. Valle said he has the video and has since tried to connect with investigators but that they have yet to follow up.

Lt. Troy Dangerfield, a spokesman for SFPD, said he wasn't aware that investigators had gone to the bar or were looking for the videos. But he said that since Apple had not filed a police report, he was sure that there was no criminal investigation connected to the missing device. "In order for there to be a crime, you need a victim," Dangerfield said. He concluded that the request by police for the surveillance footage was likely part of the internal review launched this month by department officials into how police assisted Apple in a search of a home on July 24.

Dangerfield said he had no idea where that review stood or when it might be concluded.

On August 31, CNET broke the news that a two-man Apple security team had gone to SFPD's Ingleside station and asked for help locating a phone that they said was lost by an unidentified Apple employee at Cava 22 sometime around Friday, July 22. They told police that the phone was priceless. Apple's security team and police officers then went to a Bernal Heights home where Apple said it had electronically tracked the handset. SFPD acknowledged assisting Apple but said a search of the home, car and computer belonging to Sergio Calderon, 22, was conducted exclusively by Apple employees.

Greg Sandoval/CNET

Calderon told SFWeekly, an alternative newspaper, that six people came to his family's house looking for the phone. He said they identified themselves as police and the Apple employees never identified themselves. He said he never would have allowed them to search his house if he knew they weren't all cops. Calderon acknowledged to police and Apple's investigators that he indeed was at Cava 22 the night the phone was lost there but denied knowing anything about its disappearance.

Calderon did not respond to requests to comment for this story. Apple representative declined to comment.

One question raised by the request for the surveillance video is that if police officials aren't conducting a theft investigation and are only examining how police participated in the search for the device, why would they bother reviewing the footage? Dangerfield said that it would be normal investigative practice to examine all the facts before making a determination.

The search for the missing iPhone has generated a lot of speculation. This is the second unreleased iPhone that the typically secretive Apple has lost in the past 18 months. Last year, an Apple engineer lost a prototype iPhone 4 in a German beer garden in Redwood City, Calif. Two men who were involved with finding the phone and selling it to a tech blog face theft charges. Apple's latest dragnet has stirred controversy, with some criticizing managers for going too far in trying to protect trade secrets.

Was lost iPhone recorded on video?
The big question now is whether Cava 22's video shows what happened to the missing handset?

Valle said while he possesses the videos from the nights in question it could be difficult for investigators to glean much. First, the six surveillance cameras he employs throughout his tequila bar snap still photographs every three minutes or so and then automatically store the images on a hard drive. That's a lot of time between photographs. The next problem is that while Cava 22 is well covered by the cameras, some areas of the bar are not as well lit as others and picking up details could be difficult.

And unless Apple cooperates, police would have no idea what the Apple employee who lost the phone looked like. Even if they did spot something regarding a phone on the video, they couldn't be sure it was the handset in question. Since Apple has declined to comment about the matter, we don't know if managers would agree to lend a hand. We also don't know if Apple has somehow retrieved the phone or maybe just wants to put the matter behind it.

Is that what Calderon wants as well?

He told CNET on September 6 that he was looking for a lawyer and would contact reporters when he found one, but he has not responded to e-mails in the past two weeks. He didn't say why he needed a lawyer, but presumably he believed the search of his home violated his rights.

Yet, Calderon has not filed a complaint about the search with SFPD, according to Dangerfield and a source in San Francisco's city government said as of last week Calderon also hadn't filed a report with the Office of Citizen Complaints, the agency that looks into claims of police misconduct in San Francisco.

Unconfirmed reports indicate that Apple could announce the much anticipated iPhone 5 within weeks. At this point, the story of the most recent missing iPhone appears to be fading away.