SF DA Boudin Declares ‘This taking of O’Neil’s life is not justifiable’ in Live Discussion Tuesday of Historic Filing of Homicide Charges Against Former Police Officer

By Kelly Moran

SAN FRANCISCO – San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin discussed his office’s filing of homicide charges against former SF Police Dept. officer Chris Samayoa for the killing of an unarmed suspect in 2017 Tuesday morning on KQED.

This is the first time in San Francisco’s history that a police officer has been charged with homicide in a use of force case. And Boudin said Tuesday those charges could be upped to murder.

Keita O’Neil was fatally shot by Samayoa from the window of Samayoa’s police car as he fled the vehicle he was suspected of carjacking following a car chase. O’Neil was unarmed. Boudin made it clear that “Officer Samayoa was the only officer on scene who even drew his service weapon.”

The brief live forum segment, led by KQED’s Ariana Proehl, allowed Boudin to go into greater detail about the specific charges Samayoa is facing and what this could mean for the future treatment of police shooting cases.

Samayoa has been charged with voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, assault with a semi-automatic firearm, use of force by an executive officer, and negligent discharge of a firearm.

Boudin confirmed that each of those charges have been enhanced due to the allegation that “Samayoa personally used a firearm in the commission of those offenses.”

Boudin summarized Assembly Bill 392 as “a homicide committed by a peace officer is justifiable when necessarily committed in arresting a person who has committed a felony, and the person is fleeing or resisting such arrest.”

Although the incident occurred prior to 2020 when the bill was passed, Boudin said that “we are confident the evidence will show that this taking of Mr. O’Neil’s life was not justifiable,” he continued, “because it was not necessarily committed in arresting Mr. O’Neil.”

Although the incident occurred in 2017, Boudin stated that time was needed for “an exhaustive and meticulous review of all of the evidence available,” in order to determine exactly how Samayoa should be charged.

“We recognize that not every unlawful taking of a human life is a murder, some are manslaughters,” Boudin said, “in this case, as in every case, we try to charge the case based on what we’re confident we can prove at the outset.”

But Boudin did not rule out the possibility of adding first or second degree murder charges down the line.

“If over the course of the preliminary hearing and other litigation, evidence emerges that leads us to believe we can prove to a jury a murder charge,” he said, “then we have the ability to elevate it at a later date.”

Boudin guessed that Samayoa’s possible prison sentence could be “somewhere in the neighborhood of a 21 year maximum,” because personal use of a firearm can permit 10 years maximum, and voluntary manslaughter can be up to 11.

The actions taken to charge Samayoa have been, according to Boudin, “consistent with our broader commitment of equal enforcement of the law.”

“I see this as one small step towards fulfilling a promise to enforce laws equally, to charge cases as I see them,” Boudin said, “and that includes cases where police are the ones who commit the crime.”

Kelly Moran is currently a senior at Santa Clara University, though originally from Connecticut. She is majoring in English, with a focus on British Literature and Professional Writing, and is also minoring in Journalism.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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