By The Vanguard Staff
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – California Attorney General Rob Bonta, in a letter last Thursday, said his office will not pursue homicide charges against former San Francisco police officer Chris Samayoa in the 2017 shooting of unarmed carjacking suspect Keita O’Neil.
In the 21-page letter to SF District Brooke Jenkins, Bonta said his office conducted a “this comprehensive and thorough review and considering the applicable laws, we conclude that based on all of the evidence available at this time, and considering all likely defenses, the charges against Officer Samayoa cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Following the decision by Bonta, a judge Friday officially dismissed charges against Samayoa, according to CBS News.
Bonta’s office reviewed the case at Jenkins’ request, following her motion to dismiss the charges which had been filed by her predecessor, Chesa Boudin, who was recalled from office.
CBS News said Jenkins claimed, “[i]t appears that the case was filed for political reasons and not in the interests of justice… Given the conflicts that have arisen, the evidentiary problems, and the complete lack of good faith surrounding the filing of this matter, we cannot ethically proceed with this prosecution.”
But O’Neil’s aunt April Green, through her attorney Brian Ford, asked the Attorney General’s Office to prosecute the case.
“We conclude…the decision to dismiss the case against Officer Samayoa is not an abuse of discretion….Accordingly, we decline to take over the prosecution of this matter,” was the AG’s stark statement Thursday.
Although buried in the report, with no follow-up comment, the AG noted, “The law which applies to our analysis in this case is that which was in effect at the time…December 1, 2017. The law and jury instructions concerning the fleeing felon doctrine and the standards for officers’ use of deadly force in self-defense have been substantially changed since 2017.
“These changes have had the effect of expanding criminal liability for officers such that conduct that was previously lawful is now unlawful under the new standards imposed in 2020 by amendments to California Penal Code section 835a.”
Ford told CBS News Bay Area in an email that the O’Neil family was devastated by Bonta’s decision “to let another murderous cop go free without a trial or even a preliminary hearing.”
“We call on Mr. Bonta to open the file and make all of the evidence public instead of cherry-picking evidence that could easily be refuted in court. Ms. Green and the rest of Mr. O’Neil’s surviving family were denied their day in court where the evidence would be made public and could be evaluated by a jury of peers, rather than the cloaked back-rooms of corrupt and cowardly politicians,” said Attorney Ford.
“This decision amounts to a sanction of police murder, and sets a dangerous precedent that officers can justify killing civilians based upon imagined fears derived from standard police training,” Ford added in the CBS email.
The shooting occurred Dec. 1. 2017. Samayoa, a rookie on his fourth day on the job, and since fired, responded to a report of a robbery and carjacking, and ultimately chased a stolen minivan to a dead-end.
Samayoa reportedly aimed at O’Neil in the van’s passenger seat before the patrol car stopped and shot O’Neil as he ran past the officer’s patrol car. O’Neil suffered an injury just above his collarbone on the right side, and was pronounced dead at the hospital.
“Mr. O’Neil had no weapons, he was unarmed,” Boudin said at the time. “Body camera footage from other officers shows that not a single other officer pulled out their service weapon or pointed it at Mr. O’Neil. As a result of Officer Samayoa’s terrible, tragic and unlawful decision that day … Mr. O’Neil was killed.”
Bonta’s decision, CBS News pointed out, “comes on the same month Jenkins’ office declined to file charges in another controversial slaying, the fatal shooting of Banko Brown by an armed security guard at a Walgreens store following an alleged shoplifting attempt.
“In that case, Jenkins also said it was believed the murder charge could not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. The decision has generated ongoing protests and calls for Bonta’s office to prosecute the case.”
CBS News added “Jenkins also declined to file charges in the case of Sean Moore, another unarmed Black man who died in 2020 of complications from a 2017 SFPD shooting. The DA’s office under Boudin had charged the officer with manslaughter in the case.
“Boudin had promised to crack down on any police misconduct during his campaign for office, and the case against Samayoa was the first time the office had filed homicide charges against a law enforcement officer,” said CBS News.