By Ruby Chavez
SAN FRANCISCO- San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin announced the charges against officers in two officer-involved shootings (“OIS”) from earlier this year have not been filed.
This is after Boudin announced a few weeks ago the first charges ever to be filed against a peace office in San Francisco.
After the thorough investigation, the DA’s Office’s Independent Investigation Bureau (“IIB”) made their decision for both incidents.
Under District Attorney Boudin’s leadership, the DA’s Office has been reviewing each case that involved officer use-of-force. In both cases, the evidence provided did not support prosecution of either officers that were involved.
DA Chesa Boudin said that “my office is committed to holding police accountable when they commit a crime as well as to notifying officers who are investigated- and the community at large as soon as possible when an investigation is complete.
“My office carefully reviews the specific facts in each case involving officer use-of-force so we can determine when charges are warranted as well as when officers acting under stressful situations behaved lawfully. In these two incidents the evidence showed that the officers’ use of force was lawful self-defense,” said Boudin.
In one case involving an incident Oct. 11 of this year, SFPD officers were dispatched to the area of Valencia and Market Streets regarding a suspected carjacking with a knife. Cesar Vargas was located after the officers searched the area.
The officers left their patrol vehicles and attempted to talk to Vargas. Vargas then charged at the officers with the knife, making threats. Vargas was killed during the shooting after allegedly charging at police with a knife.
The IIB unit responded to the scene, and the IIB attorney and investigators began a thorough investigation on the officers’ use-of-force. The IIB included interviews with witnesses and the officers who were involved and reviewing written reports.
They reviewed surveillance videos and the police body camera footage to get all evidence needed. With the evidence, they determined it did not support criminal charges against the officers involved at the shooting.
Lateef Gray, the head of the District Attorney’s IIB Unit, said, “This was a tragedy, and we express condolences to Mr. Vargas’ family for their loss.” Gray said, adding “although we recognize that this announcement may bring them pain, we hope that by reporting the results of our investigation, we can bring some closure and provide them space to grieve.”
The second OIS incident that was a decline-to-file charges decision by the DA occurred on April 21. Officers were dispatched to the Pierre Hotel for a report of a person inside the lobby waving a 2 x 4 piece of lumber and possibly holding a knife.
Thomas O’Bannon was present and hit a glass window with a piece of wood and ripped at a red fire box in the inside wall of the front office. The officers attempted to handle the situation promptly and safely by trying to have the case manager at the hotel speak to O’Bannon.
The efforts were not successful and O’Bannon thrust the 2 x 4 piece of wood at the officers. The officers then used their Extended Range Impact Weapon (ERIW), which was also unsuccessful. O’Bannon was armed with a screwdriver.
Once he was outside, with the screwdriver in his hand, he charged at an officer, who began to fall backwards, fired his firearm twice, but did not strike O’Bannon.
Thomas O’Bannon was charged by the DA’s Office after his arrest and is currently in Behavioral Health Court, living in a residential program, and has been compliant with the terms of the program.
The IIB Unit responded to this scene and conducted witness interviews, officer interviews, reviewed all written reports, and carefully reviewed surveillance and body camera footage before a decision has been made.
Last month, on Nov. 23, DA Boudin announced the historic prosecution of former officer Chris Samayoa, who shot and killed Keita O’Neil in 2017. This was the first homicide charge against an on-duty officer in SF history.
And this week, DA Boudin announced that a grand jury had returned indictments for felony charges against Officer Christopher Flores, who shot Jamaica Hampton in December 2019. Hampton was also indicted.
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