The family of Chynna “Banko” Brown, a criminal who was shot and killed at a San Francisco Walgreens in April by a security guard who was cleared on all charges last month, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Walgreens and the security guard on Friday, asking for at least $25 million.
On the evening of April 27th at the Walgreens at Market and Fourth streets in the city, 33-year-old security guard Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony confronted 24-year-old Brown over trying to steal items from the store. According to surveillance camera footage reviewed by the DA’s office, Brown immediately became belligerent, using physical force, violence, and the threat of violence against Anthony. With his life now in mortal danger, Anthony shot Brown once with a pistol.
Police were quickly on scene, and Brown was sent to the hospital, with Anthony detained. Brown succumbed to her wounds in the days that followed. San Francisco law enforcement opened an investigation of the incident.
Following a review, District Attorney Brooke Jenkins announced last week that Anthony had acted in self defense and would not be charged. However, Jenkins’ decision brought criticism both from black and trans activists who have insisted that the shooting was not self-defense, and from Supervisors who have tried to push Jenkins to reconsider the case. While Jenkins later stated last week that the investigation is still ongoing and charges have not been totally ruled out, the Board of Supervisors quickly pressed the investigation.
They subsequently introduced legislation that would limit how security guards could use firearms and urged DA Jenkins to release all police reports, witness accounts, and video footage associated with the case to see if the killing of Brown last month was in self-defense or not. All the while, protests against the killing and calling for ‘Justice for Brown’ were held across the city.
Despite the protests and political pressure, the DA’s office concluded their investigation in mid-May, finding that Anthony had acted in self-defense as Brown had threatened to stab him multiple times and could be seen going after him again in the security footage. While no knife was found on Brown, the DA’s office concluded that the fear was reasonable, with no charges to be filed against Anthony.
While many in San Francisco were in favor of the decision, seeing it as a strike back against high crime rates in the city and an undermanned SFPD, others protested the decision, saying that Brown had been shot over simply trying to steal $14 worth of merchandise. Brown’s family also vowed to file a lawsuit, which finally came to fruition on Friday.
A new wrongful death suit
According to the wrongful death suit, Walgreens, Anthony and Kingdom Group Protective Services, the security guard company, are defendants, with Brown’s family asking for at least $25 million in the suit. The suit claims that Anthony was negligent in his shooting of Brown by use of excessive force, with the other two being liable for training and supervising him that way to act like that.
“Anthony was on edge, a powder keg waiting to explode. Banko’s apparent shoplifting was the spark that set Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony off,” said Banko family lawyer John Burris in a statement. “Walgreens and Kingdom Protective Services ordered their security to be more aggressive, causing their unfit security guard to blow up and kill Banko over nothing.”
“Defendants breached their duty by failing to properly train Anthony, especially after changing their policies to permit more forceful detentions of people suspected of committing misdemeanor property crime such as shoplifting.”
However, Frank Ma, a former law enforcement officer and security consultant in the Bay Area, told the Globe that many in the city don’t want the lawsuit to succeed, as it could lead to a dangerous precedent.
“Nobody wants to live in a city where they find in favor of the plaintiffs here,” explained Ma. “It’s sad that someone had to be killed, but if this is passed, no major store is going to dare try to stop shoplifting anymore if paying millions in a lawsuit is threatened against them. Stores have been pulling out of the city left and right. If they are no longer allowed to stop shoplifters, then it’s game over, as the police don’t have the officers to properly respond and investigate right now. Stores will either put everything behind cases or go to all online models, or just pull out entirely.”
“San Francisco is a big market, but if they lose money and aren’t allowed to do anything to stop it, then why even stay?”
He also noted that the suit itself isn’t that strong.
“This is running on pure emotion right now,” explained Ma. “We need to view this logically. The guard confronted him, stopped him from stealing, and when the person claimed to have a knife while fighting him, the guard shot him in self defense. It was a last resort, but it happened.”
“There’s no real negligence there and training seemed to be spot on. It’s just a perceived injustice and one of those cases that, if they don’t get settled, usually seem to get chucked out of the courthouse pretty fast by the judge.”
The case is expected to be heard in court later this year.
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