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Video: Wedding photographer attacked during attempted robbery at SF's Palace of Fine Arts

Violent attack on wedding photographer in S.F. caught on video
Violent attack on wedding photographer in S.F. caught on video 03:25

SAN FRANCISCO -- A violent attack and attempted armed robbery of a wedding photographer was caught on camera at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco earlier this week.

It happened on Wednesday around 4:40 p.m. in front of a lot of witnesses.

SF photographer attack and attempted robbery
SF photographer attack and attempted robbery. CBS

A cell phone video shows two gunmen trying to take a wedding photographer's camera and the gear in his camera bag.

The victim refused to comply. The attackers repeatedly threatened the victim with their guns. One of the guns appeared to have an extended clip. The suspects hit him and pistol-whipped him.

"Just watching kind of like the struggle and everything. I just felt for him. I felt for the couple because I know that they felt helpless," said San Francisco-based wedding photographer Monica Lam.

The groom could be seen in the video raising both hands in the air. The bride appeared to be in tears. There were dozens of people standing around, fearful to get involved and possibly get shot.

The photographer is based in Dallas, Texas, while the couple he was photographing is from the Bay Area. KPIX learned they had gotten their marriage certificate at city hall before the photo shoot at the Palace of Fine Arts.

After about a minute of struggling, the two gunmen run off.  The victim was able to keep his bag.

"I think he was extremely, extremely brave to have done that. But it's not worth risking your life over potentially cuz they did have guns," said Lam.

Lam was alerted to the attack and watched the video right before her shoot at the same location on Saturday.

"I was just scared. Yeah, I was scared. I was very nervous coming here today, I didn't know what to make of it," said Lam.

The Palace of Fine Arts is a hot spot for car break-ins. That's why there are warning signs posted all around it, telling people to not leave anything in their cars.

But this type of brazen attack is forcing some photographers to stay away.

"It does change things for me for sure. I think possibility next year, I won't have that many shoots in SF anymore," said Lam.

But wedding photographer Annie Zou with A Tale Ahead Photography said that's not an option.  Her livelihood depends on these locations.

"All my couples are travelling from out of state, they want the most signature locations, so it's really hard for me," said Zou.

Back in July of 2017, photographer Edward French was shot and killed on Twin Peaks over his camera.

These violent robberies are becoming more common at popular photo shoot locations in the city. Zou said she'll just have to be more careful.

"As an Asian female photographer, usually by myself, so I'm like an easy target for them," said Zou. "[I feel] very vulnerable."

The victim said he had a bloodied head from the pistol whips. He said the reason he refused to let go of his cameras was he wanted to save the pictures for his clients.

We reached out to San Francisco police for more information on the case.  Since it's a holiday weekend, they said they'll get back to us on Monday.

In the past, the police have advised anyone approached by armed robbers to give up their possessions since it's not worth the risk.

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