ABC7 I-Team confronts San Francisco police sergeant accused of unlawfully pulling fire alarm

Dan Noyes Image
ByDan Noyes via KGO logo
Friday, August 30, 2019
EMBED <>More Videos

A San Francisco police sergeant is under criminal investigation for allegedly pulling a false fire alarm at a police department in another city.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A San Francisco police sergeant is under criminal investigation for allegedly pulling a false fire alarm at a police department in another city.

This might sound like a high school prank to you, but it's very serious business, especially if a trained law enforcement professional is involved.

The Pacifica Police Department put out a "wanted" alert on Facebook earlier this month, asking for help identifying the woman who "unlawfully pulled the fire alarm" in their lobby. They've now identified her as 46-year-old Maria Donati, a San Francisco police sergeant who runs the traffic window at the Hall of Justice, where the I-Team's Dan Noyes caught up to her.

RELATED: SFPD Sergeant charged in false fire alarm: I-Team update

Dan Noyes: "Hey, sergeant. I'm Dan Noyes from Channel 7. I need to talk to you about the fire alarm. Can you tell me what happened?"

Sgt. Maria Donati: "No. No. I'm not talking. Thank you."

Dan Noyes: "Why not?"

Sgt. Maria Donati: "It's clear.">

People there at the time tell us Donati, a Pacifica resident, was not happy that the meeting of a citizens task force on homelessness was closed to the public, so she pulled the fire alarm. But Donati wouldn't give the I-Team her side of the story.

Dan Noyes: "It's clear?"

Sgt. Maria Donati: "Clearly why I'm not talking."

San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe is considering filing misdemeanor charges that could bring six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

"You know, there's danger in it, you never know," Wagstaffe told the I-Team. "Think of a fire department, a fire department responding to a fire alarm gets into a car accident and somebody gets hurt, there's always a potential danger, that's why it's against the law."

The SFPD told us Monday that Donati remains on the job while they conduct an administrative investigation that will be referred to Chief Bill Scott for review. Former San Francisco police commander Rich Corriea says the case appears to show a serious lapse in judgment:

"If they're not exercising good judgment in either their personal life or on duty, that puts you on notice to look in and see if this is the right person for the job."

VIDEO: I-Team's Dan Noyes confronts SFPD sergeant accused of pulling false fire alarm

Another issue -- the I-Team pulled the emergency recordings from that day. You can hear a dispatcher call out, "Engine 72, a fire alarm manual pull, that's going to be the Pacifica PD at 2075 Cabrillo Hwy."

It was a busy evening. Serious medical calls came in; the dispatcher reports, "It's going to be a 56-year-old male with stroke symptoms."

And a 45-year-old heart patient with chest pains, a 97-year-old woman having difficulty breathing. The fire department also had to respond to this false alarm.

"72, we made contact with the Pacifica PD," said the dispatcher. "It appears there's something showing but they're requesting your assistance to silence the alarm."

Corriea told the I-Team, "You could pull an emergency vehicle out of one area and away from the next emergency that comes in and that's dangerous."

We also reached out to the San Francisco Police Officers Association, but didn't get an answer. The DA expects to make a charging decision later this week; we'll get back to you on that.

For a look at more stories and videos by the ABC7 News I-Team go here.