San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins continues to receive pressure from the SF Board of Supervisors and activists to reconsider her decision to not charge a Walgreens security guard over a shooting death of a criminal that occurred last week.
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 Chynna “Banko” 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, with Brown being sent to the hospital and Anthony being detained. Brown succumbed to their wounds on Friday and passed away, with San Francisco law enforcement conducting an investigation of the incident. Following a review over the weekend, District Attorney Jenkins announced on Monday that Anthony had acted in self defense and would not be charged.
“As a prosecutor, there is no tougher job than to have to review these types of cases and really make a determination that we know is going to disappoint a community and a family,” said Jenkins in an interview on Monday. “In this particularly instance, this was a shoplifting that really — based on the facts — escalated into a robbery.
“We had to evaluate the video, the statement of the security guard, multiple witness statements to figure out whether or not there was a credible claim of self defense. And we ultimately did not believe we could prove beyond a reasonable doubt here that the security guard had committed murder or any other crime.”
The DA’s office also gave an official statement on the incident, noting that “The evidence clearly shows that the suspect believed he was in mortal danger and acted in self-defense. We cannot bring forward charges when there is credible evidence of reasonable self-defense. Doing so would be unethical and create false hope for a successful prosecution. No matter the case, however, we must follow the law and the evidence, wherever it leads. We never make decisions based on emotions or what may be politically expedient.”
Activists, Supervisors try to have DA reverse decision
However, the determination that the shooting was self-defense upset many in the city. Groups such as the Young Woman’s Freedom Center (YWFC) took to the streets beginning on Monday, calling for justice for Brown, as well as for more low-income housing and other programs so that young people in the city wouldn’t turn to crime.
“We need this City to do better. San Francisco has to be safe for young Black people and trans youth who are experiencing poverty,” explained YWFC Executive Director Julia Arroyo. “Brown had been struggling with housing instability for over a decade while working for the organization as a community organizer tirelessly, making consistent calls for shelter and other basic needs.
“We are beyond devastated by Banko’s passing. He was a smart and funny young man who, though shy, made friends easily. He was resilient and tenacious and loved by our whole community. We need immediate funding for community-based housing that responds to what young people want for themselves. Instead of terrorizing and killing youth, we need real investment into their safety.”
While protestors have been demanding that city officials also increase investment in young people, especially LGBT people of color, some Board of Supervisors members have said that they wanted Jenkins to look again at her decision not to prosecute, particularly after a Tuesday Supervisors meeting when dozens of members of the community came to speak out against the ruling.
“I am deeply concerned based on my conversations with law enforcement by the district attorney’s decision not to charge at least manslaughter,” said Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who, on Tuesday, added that he would formally urge District Attorney Brooke Jenkins to reconsider her decision.
Supervisor Shamann Walton agreed, saying that “We cannot accept things like that happening in our city.”
Supervisor Matt Dorsey did as well, stating on Wednesday that “Last Thursday’s homicide was a terribly painful loss to a community that loved him very much. In this case, D.A. Jenkins and her office found insufficient evidence to pursue murder charges against the suspect. I know that outcome doesn’t feel like justice to many who knew Banko, but I pray that time and God’s grace can heal the trauma of this tragedy for all involved.”
Despite protests and calls for reversal on the decision continuing on Thursday, the DA’s office has refused to back down on their decision, citing the overwhelming evidence. Many in the city also expressed support for the security guard and the DA’s decision.
“This city is going to hell in a handbasket, so a criminal getting killed in self-defense over a robbery was bound to happen,” explained LaShawn Matthews, a neighborhood watch member nearby where the robbery took place. “It’s always sad to see someone else be killed in San Francisco. But we need to remind ourselves that this person stole and put another persons life in immediate danger. Sometimes the violent option is the only one you have left. It wasn’t an easy call, but the DA made it.
“I get what those protestors and these politicians are trying to say, but they’re just wrong about this. We want safer neighborhoods here. Some criminals don’t like the fact that that’s happening, so something like this was bound to happen. You wish it wouldn’t, but in the state of the City right now, it was to happen sometime. You talk to the average resident being terrified by all these criminals for years, and you’ll see that they’ll agree with the DA. A lot of us here don’t want to be victims anymore and see these criminals walk away scot-free after crimes.”
As of Thursday afternoon, the SF DA’s office has continued to stand by their ruling.
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