In an unprecedented filing in California history, the San Francisco District Attorney’s office has announced a former police officer will face a variety of homicide charges for the 2017 shooting death of an alleged carjacking suspect.
San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin announced the decision to charge former officer Chris Samayoa via a Twitter post on Monday.
“Today, my office filed homicide charges against the former officer who shot and killed Keita O’Neil, an unarmed, Black man in 2017,” he wrote. “As far as we are aware, this is the first time in San Francisco history that an officer has been prosecuted for homicide.”
Today, my office filed homicide charges against the former officer who shot and killed Keita O’Neil, an unarmed, Black man in 2017.
As far as we are aware, this is the first time in San Francisco history that an officer has been prosecuted for homicide.
— Chesa Boudin 博徹思 (@chesaboudin) November 23, 2020
The progressive lawyer also held a press conference regarding his decision to prosecute Samayoa after what he described as the former law enforcement agent’s “terrible, tragic and unlawful decision to pull and shoot his gun.”
“As recent events have reminded us, for far too long, we’ve seen the failure of our legal system to hold police accountable for violence committed against the very members of the public that they have sworn to serve and protect,” Boudin said.
“We are here to enforce laws equally, no matter what the color of your skin, no matter how much money you have in your bank, and no matter your job title or whether you wear a uniform to work,” he continued.
An impassioned Boudin, who said that police were not untouchable, also admitted that the city’s sordid history between civilians and law enforcement needed an overhaul.
“In San Francisco, there has been a long history of officer-involved shootings leading to no accountability whatsoever, further cementing the idea that police are above the law,” Boudin said. “That stops today.”
Samayoa was charged with voluntary manslaughter, assault by an executive officer, involuntary manslaughter, assault with a semi-automatic firearm and negligent discharge of a gun.
According to SFBayCa.com, Samayoa shot and killed O’Neil after he and a commanding training officer pursued the man after a suspected carjacking on Dec. 1, 2017.
Video footage released from the San Francisco Police Department showed O'Neil jumping out of a minivan and running past the officers. Samayoa took aim at the running man through a glass window from the patrol car’s passenger seat, shot his weapon without provocation, and O’Neil fell to the ground.
The bullet struck O’Neil in the collarbone. He later died at San Francisco General Hospital, according to the publication. The 42-year-old man’s family has subsequently filed a lawsuit against the city and the San Francisco Police Department.
In August 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB-392 into law. The impactful bill redefines the parameters for police where lethal force would be considered justifiable with intentions to foster alternative methods of de-escalating police-civilian interactions.
Under the new act, there are two reasons why an officer can use lethal force: “to defend against an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to the officer or another person" or "to apprehend a fleeing felon if the officer reasonably believes that the person will cause death or serious bodily injury to another unless immediately apprehended.”
The law went into effect in January of this year.