By The Vanguard Staff
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – San Francisco Police Department Officer Kenneth Cha was formerly charged with homicide Tuesday, nearly five years after he gunned down Sean Moore on Jan. 6, 2017 during a noise ordinance call, announced San Francisco District Attorney Boudin.
It’s only the second homicide prosecution against an on-duty law enforcement officer in San Francisco history.
Cha has been charged with voluntary manslaughter, assault with a semi-automatic firearm, infliction of great bodily injury and enhancements for personal use of a firearm. Moore died three years after the injuries inflicted by Officer Cha.
“After a thorough investigation, my office is holding Officer Cha accountable for the death of Sean Moore, whom he lacked a lawful basis to even arrest. When officers inflict unwarranted violence in flagrant disregard of their training, it denigrates the hard work of other police officers and shatters the trust our community places in law enforcement,” San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin.
“Rebuilding that trust requires us to hold those officers who inflict unlawful violence accountable. We rely on officers to follow their training and to deescalate situations; instead, in just eight minutes, Officer Cha elevated a nonviolent encounter to one that took Sean Moore’s life. Sean Moore was unarmed and at his own home when Officer Cha shot him twice,” added Boudin.
The DA’s Office chronicled the events of Jan. 6, 2017, noting that Officers Cha and Colin Patino responded to Moore’s San Francisco home following a report by a neighbor that Moore was ”violating a temporary restraining order that prohibited noise harassment.” The neighbor did not request a citizen’s arrest.
The DA Office said body worn camera footage showed the Moore didn’t want to talk with police, denied harassing his neighbor, noting that he was only cleaning the stairs and emptying trash. Officers refused to leave, Cha allegedly pepper sprayed Moore and Officer Patino inadvertently hit by the spray.
Reportedly, officers “continued to order Mr. Moore outside, telling him he was under arrest, and Officer Cha threatened to kick in the gate if Mr. Moore did not come outside on his own. Mr. Moore came outside his home behind the security gate and informed the officers that he needed medical attention,” said the DA Office.
Minutes later – this entire episode took just eight minutes – officers, said the DA Office, “ran up the stairs a third time with their batons raised. As Mr. Moore began retreating backwards up the steps toward his home, Officer Patino hit him with his metal baton. Mr. Moore struck back, and Officer Patino fell down the stairs.
“Officer Cha drew his gun, pointed it at Mr. Moore and ran up the steps towards Mr. Moore, who reacted by kicking in the direction of Officer Cha. Officer Cha shot Mr. Moore twice in the abdomen. The gunshots lacerated Mr. Moore’s liver and struck his right colon, scarring internal organs and causing severe abdominal adhesions.
“Mr. Moore died on January 20, 2020; the coroners’ report indicated the cause of death was homicide and that he died from Acute Intestinal Obstruction as a result of the bullet wounds,” according to the DA Office report.
Earlier this year, the city of San Francisco settled the lawsuit filed by Moore’s family for $3.25 million—the largest settlement of its kind in recent history, said the DA statement Tuesday, adding:
“In granting summary judgment in the civil case filed by Mr. Moore’s family in federal court, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California cited the First District Appellate Court decision in finding that the officers were not lawfully performing their duties when they went up the stairs the second and third times.”
Boudin’s office noted that “Three Separate Courts Have Previously Held that the Officers Acted Unlawfully in Using Force Against Mr. Moore (who) had previously been charged with eight counts based on the January 6, 2017 incident in which he was shot. Those charges were dismissed by the San Francisco Superior Court for lacking probable cause, and an appellate court affirmed the court’s decision.
“Later, a federal court cited that appellate decision as well in finding that officers acted unlawfully when they went up Mr. Moore’s stairs the second and third times. The courts reviewing the criminal case against Mr. Moore held that Officers Cha and Patino were not acting lawfully as officers when they used pepper spray, batons, and when Officer Cha shot Mr. Moore.
“Neither Officer Cha nor Patino had observed Mr. Moore commit any illegal act. They had not been asked to conduct a citizen’s arrest. The courts found that the officers’ lawful duties had concluded once they had first gone up the stairs; at that point their investigation had concluded as Mr. Moore had identified himself, acknowledged that he knew about the restraining order and explained he had not violated it by taking out the garbage. Accordingly, the officers had no basis to continue to remain on Mr. Moore’s property or to use force against him.
“As a result, the Superior Court dismissed all eight charges against Mr. Moore. The First District Appellate Court affirmed that finding in 2018, agreeing that both officers were not acting lawfully and were in fact criminally trespassing when they came up the stairs the second and third times. Mr. Moore had the right to use force to get the officers to leave when they refused. Accordingly, there was no basis for Officer Cha to shoot Mr. Moore.”
“The family of Sean Moore reacted emotionally to the news,” said Boudin’s office, stating that Cleo Moore, Sean Moore’s mother, who said she is “very happy” that Cha is going to be held accountable for her son’s killing. She said she believes her son was “criminalized due to his mental health needs.”
The announcement was also praised by criminal justice reform leaders, civil rights activists and police accountability advocates.
Longtime police reform advocate and retired police practices expert John Crew said that “Just weeks prior to this shocking display of escalation by officers investigating a noise complaint, the San Francisco Police Commission had formally adopted its well-publicized mandatory de-escalation policy.”
“Policies and laws must be treated as more than just words on paper; they must be enforced. I am pleased that District Attorney Boudin is holding Officer Cha accountable for this egregious example of excessive use of force—which took Sean Moore’s life,” he said.
“The shooting of Sean Moore, an unarmed Black man, by San Francisco police is yet another example of unlawful use of deadly force that…led to Mr. Moore’s untimely death. Police officers in San Francisco and throughout the nation continue to escalate situations that call for de-escalation and the intervention of mental health clinicians,” said Yoel Y. Haile, Director Criminal Justice Program, ACLU of Northern California.
“We commend District Attorney Boudin’s continued effort to hold police officers accountable for criminal behavior. But Mr. Moore’s death is also a searing indictment of the entire carceral system, one that responds to mental health disorders with criminalization and incarceration instead of with treatment and compassion,” Haile added.
“From Minneapolis to Danville to Los Angeles to San Francisco, officers who kill must be held accountable,” said Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of Black Lives Matter; artist; educator; and advocate for civil rights and mental health care.
“Yet it still remains rare for police to be prosecuted for inflicting violence against unarmed Black and Brown people—even in cases like this one, where multiple courts have already ruled that officers were violating the law when they refused to leave Sean Moore’s property. I commend District Attorney Boudin’s courage to do what is right to ensure that police officers are not free to act with impunity in San Francisco—or anywhere else,” Cullors said.