Three decades before Dianne Feinstein was a United States Senator, notable for not retiring, being rich, giving Lindsey Graham a little cuddle at the Amy Coney Barrett hearings for a job well done, and yelling at children, among, I’m sure, other achievements, she was the mayor of San Francisco. It was in this role that she achieved yet another remarkable feat: aiding Richard Ramirez, also known as the Night Stalker, in evading police so that he could kill more people.
Netflix’s Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer is an exceptional true-crime documentary that resists the trap of portraying a monstrous murderer and rapist as some sort of crime genius. Instead, the documentary focuses on the real reason so many serial murderers and rapists were allowed pretty much free reign to terrorize people in the 1970s and ’80s—police inexperience, petty bullshit egos in jurisdictions that refused to cooperate with one another, and, in this case, Dianne Feinstein reciting a list of police evidence on national television for no apparent reason.
According to the documentary, Frank Salerno and Gil Carrillo, two detectives working on the case, had painstakingly pieced together a few bits of linking evidence between the 13 murders and even more rapes committed by Ramirez across the Los Angeles area between 1984 and 1985. Police had a shoe print from a notably rare sneaker (only one pair was sold in Ramirez’s size in the Los Angeles area) and a distinct type of bullet. As anyone who has read so much as one detective novel knows, holding back a key piece of evidence or information only the killer would have can be pretty crucial to cracking the case.
However, when the Night Stalker attacked an elderly couple in San Francisco, Feinstein, perhaps not a great reader of detective novels, held a press conference in which she offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the killer’s arrest while also giving up all of the clues police had worked so painstakingly to gather and keep from the media including the shoe, ballistics, and information about the car Ramirez was believed to be driving, leaving detectives to start all over and tipping off Ramirez as to which evidence he should ditch in order to keep killing and raping people in California undetected. Ramirez then went on to murder another victim in Orange County after stealing a car before police were tipped off to his identity by multiple friends of Ramirez. Police never found that shoe.
While a kinder explanation for Feinstein’s behavior is offered in the documentary by a San Franciso police officer than she perhaps deserves (the officer says the San Francisco police chief simply did not tell the mayor to not tell their press all their clues), honestly, this kinda just sounds like some pretty typical Feinstein shit.