By: Cheri Mossburg, 2/11/2023
San Francisco’s District Attorney is threatening to drop what’s believed to be the city’s first case filed against a police officer for an on-duty homicide, claiming the case was filed by her predecessor for “political reasons.”
In 2020, San Francisco Police Department Officer Christopher Samayoa was charged with manslaughter in the 2017 shooting death of Keita O’Neil, a carjacking suspect who was unarmed.
San Francisco DA Brooke Jenkins reached out to Rob Bonta, California’s Attorney General, in an eight-page letter dated February 8th detailing the incident, the evidence, and requesting Bonta’s office take over the case, citing internal conflicts within the DA’s office.
“In support of the family’s wishes, we have asked the California Attorney General’s Office to independently review this case because of the conflicts and issues that have arisen and we will assist their office in any way that we can,” Jenkins said in a statement to CNN.
The letter from Jenkins to Bonta expands on what she says was the perceived motivation of the initial case filing, which was spearheaded by her predecessor Chesa Boudin, who was recalled in 2022.
“It appears that the case was filed for political reasons and not in the interests of justice. I cannot pursue this case out of political convenience. 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,” Jenkins states in the letter. “Therefore, it is our intention to dismiss the charges made in this case, unless the Attorney General’s Office decides to step in and take over the case.”
Jenkins indicated in the letter that she intends to drop the charges against Samayoa at a March 1st hearing.
In a statement to CNN, former San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin said, “It’s clear Jenkins has been coordinating with the officer’s defense team to avoid a public hearing on the disturbing facts of the case.”
Boudin goes on to say Jenkins “is scapegoating me to try to divert attention from what this decision ultimately reveals about her: Jenkins will not hold everyone equally accountable under the law, she is deeply politically motivated, and she does not care about victims of police violence.”
O’Neil’s family has requested the prosecution to continue.
“The decision of Brooke Jenkins to dismiss this case simply proves the conflict we complained of: She is more interested in protecting murderous cops and attacking Boudin than in seeking justice for the citizens of San Francisco. It is a shameful and cowardly decision. But it means that Attorney General Rob Bonta has all the more duty to investigate and take up the prosecution of Christopher Samayoa for the murder of Keita O’Neil,” said Brian Ford, attorney for O’Neil’s aunt, April Green.
Bonta’s office told CNN they have received the request and are reviewing it.
Samayoa was a rookie cop just four days into his tenure with the department on the day of the shooting. He was fired from the force in March 2018 after the deadly incident.
“Chesa Boudin’s filing of this case was irresponsible, reckless and motivated by what I believe to be blind political aspirations; attempting to make my client his professional deer-head with no consideration for prosecutorial integrity,” Samayoa’s attorney, Julia Fox, said in a statement. “Conversely, Brooke Jenkins and her Managing Attorney Darby Williams have been thoughtful and conscientious in their analysis of this political hot potato that was senselessly dropped in their laps.”