Czech news crew robbed at gunpoint after landing in San Francisco to cover Biden’s APEC summit

The pair lost $18,000 worth of equiptment and footage from a day wandering San Francisco

Michelle Del Rey
Wednesday 15 November 2023 22:05 GMT
President Biden greets Chinese President Xi Jinping at APEC Summit

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A Czech public television news crew arrived in San Francisco to cover the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) but ended up being robbed at gunpoint, which cost them $18,000 in equipment and at least a day’s worth of footage.

Czech TV journalist Bohumil Vostal and a cameraman were busy taking shots of the city’s famous City Lights bookstore on Sunday when they were attacked at gunpoint around 5pm on Columbus Avenue.

One of the thieves pointed a firearm at the cameraman’s stomach, while another pointed one at Mr Vostal’s head. The reporter quickly called 911, but the robbers sped off in a dark sedan just as police arrived.

Speaking to the San Francisco Chronicle, Mr Vostal said the pair had to buy new equipment, including lights and cables. They were forced to use the video recorder on the cameraman’s personal device.

The event dampened the journalist’s vision of his trip to San Francisco, which was loosely inspired by Jack Kerouac’s On The Road.

“I was so much looking forward to visit your city,” he told the newspaper.

Some of the lost footage included interviews with leaders in the city’s Transgender District, a conversation with a gallery owner and stills of the Painted Ladies.

Despite the horrific events, Mr Vostal told the outlet he remains focused on covering APEC, which is taking place in the city until Friday. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping met at the summit on Wednesday.

Foreign correspondents from all over the world traveled to the city for the summit, where the leaders are set to discuss the Ukraine and Middle East wars, among other topics.

Mr Vostal has been inundated with support from people far and wide, including San Francisco Mayor London Breed, who met with the pair on Monday for an interview, which was filmed on the personal camera fashioned on top of a tripod.

Local news stations offered to let the duo borrow equipment. Mr Vostal said he was hoping to get some gear from the European Broadcasting Union.

“We have all kinds of people offering help,” the reporter told the Chronicle. “They’re offering psychological help and sending links to a fund for victims of gun violence.”

By Wednesday, it was back to business as usual. Around 1pm, Mr Vostal posted an update to X, formerly known as Twitter, alerting the world that he was still in the city covering the day’s events.

He plans to give another update around 10pm.

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