Surveillance footage shows moment when Officer Sterling Hayes shoots Jamaica Hampton.

San Francisco police union president Tony Montoya’s call this morning for federal prosecutors to file charges against a man caught on video striking an officer with a bottle prior to being shot three times and losing a leg confounded legal scholars consulted by Mission Local. 

It additionally comes as Montoya’s runoff election to remain atop the union commences. 

DA Chesa Boudin on Friday withdrew charges against Jamaica Hampton, who on Dec. 7 was shot three times by SFPD officers on Mission and 23rd and subsequently had his left leg amputated. The charges were withdrawn “without prejudice,” which means they can be refiled at the District Attorney’s discretion during the next three years. 

Boudin’s professed rationale was that he first wished to conclude investigations into the officers who shot Hampton before proceeding with the case against the 24-year-old former homeless man. 

“It would be problematic to ask the officers to testify while they are under investigation,” Boudin told the San Francisco Examiner on Saturday. 

The POA bundled some $700,000 in a losing effort against Boudin’s election, and his explanation for dismissing charges was not well-received by the police union, which held a press conference today calling for the feds to intervene. 

“Mr. Boudin has made it clear to criminals everywhere that you can violently attack a police officer and he’ll look the other way,” Montoya said today. He earlier sent Boudin a letter claiming that the failure to move forward with the prosecution of Hampton “sends a message to every suspect that it is perfectly acceptable to physically assault an officer to get away with your crimes.” 

Whether “every suspect” will look to Hampton — who still has potential charges hanging over him for the next several years and remains hospitalized with an amputated leg — as an example of someone getting off easy is a debatable proposition. 

But a number of officers contacted by Mission Local confirmed that the anger expressed by Montoya and his cohort was not feigned. 

A 245 on a cop and it’s on video. And he dismissed the case,” said a veteran officer. “That’s crazy.” 

While Boudin has years to refile the charges, officers we spoke to were unmoved: “He won’t. He won’t,” said another longtime cop. “It’s a kiss-off.” 

Those officers — and others — also viewed Montoya’s  splashy press conference today through a political lens. Per Police Officers Association materials, online voting commences Jan. 27 for a runoff election to decide the next president of the union. 

Montoya, the sitting president, only managed to wrangle 49.1 percent of the vote earlier this month, with challenger Sgt. Rich Cibotti clocking 48.2 percent. 

A majority is required to declare a winner; the runoff, which will conclude on Feb. 1, will determine the victor. Montoya and Cibotti will debate each other on Tuesday evening at the Police Academy in an event open only to active POA members. 

Cibotti is backed by ousted former POA president and consultant Gary Delagnes, who has portrayed Montoya as soft and ineffective. 

Montoya was not soft in his treatment of Delagnes in February 2019, when he, in essence, terminated him from his consulting position after Delagnes published a broadside against recently deceased public defender Jeff Adachi on his Facebook page.  

While Montoya’s call for federal intervention may resonate with offended cops and boost his election prospects, it did not have the same effect on legal scholars consulted by Mission Local. 

“I can see why police would be thrown off by this and looking around for a higher power to help them,” said Hadar Aviram, a law professor at U.C. Hastings. “But for that to happen, you’d have to have a theory as to why what happened constitutes a federal crime.” 

There are broad swaths of San Francisco that are federal land — but Mission and 23rd, where Hampton was shot, is not among them. 

“If we’re talking about municipal police and non-federal land, I’m not sure what the federal offense would be,” she continued. “I’m not sure under what theory the feds would be stepping in.” 

Mayor London Breed today issued a statement attempting to cool the heated situation. 

“I have spoken with the District Attorney and he made it clear that the investigation into all the circumstances and facts surrounding the incident must be resolved before any decision to file charges can occur to avoid any conflict of interest,” reads the email from the mayor. 

I firmly believe there should be an investigation into the shooting that happened. That said, our Police Department has worked diligently to implement reforms to reduce officer-involved shootings and to be more transparent with the community. … You deserve to know that when you do this work on behalf of the people of San Francisco, that any act of violence against you will be met with firm resolve.” 

Joe Eskenazi

Joe was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. “Your humble narrator” was a writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015, and a senior...

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12 Comments

  1. This (unfortunate) incident is ironically the ideal opportunity to establish trust between the two sides — you really couldn’t ask for a better starting case to establish a foothold in this challenged relationship:

    – A direct assault on police officers, in broad daylight
    – Well-documented on video, both officer bodycam and independent cameras
    – Arguably acceptable use of force by officers involved
    – Heavily injured suspect who is not a flight risk or immediate risk to the populace

    The best outcome for San Franciscans here? Boudin defers (but not waives) the suspect’s charges. Review of the officer actions results in some recommended improvements but no penalties or suspensions. The suspect is ultimately prosecuted and convicted for the assault, but is deferred into mental health or other non-incarceration programs, based on his injuries & future risk to the community. The DA and the SFPD grumble over initial reservations but agree that this was probably the right outcome.

    The worst outcome for SF? Boudin completely waives the charges. The DA office files charges against the officers, resulting in suspensions and counter-lawsuits from the officers. The suspect ends up suing the city for damages. The SFPD blow their stack and vow to resist the DA with every breath (they’re practically there now). Every arrest for the rest of Boudin’s term becomes a nightmare of undermining gridlock from both sides.

    I’m giving Boudin the benefit of the doubt for now, and my fingers are crossed that he does the right thing. I hope the SFPD will do the same.

    1. This is such an obvious Fuck You to the SFPD and clear pandering to the community activists who claim that Hampton was a good kid and volunteer wrongly shot by the police (despite the obvious video footage from multiple cameras/angles showing him chasing the police before getting shot and him running towards the cop car and assaulting office sitting in his char).

      It appears that even violent crime won’t be prosecuted in SF anymore. This is truly unprecedented. Why even have prosecutors? He should just dissolve the office altogether. I would love to see the public record of what crimes are and are not being prosecuted this year. I suspect charges being dropped right and left by the DA. He wasn’t kidding when he said he was a prison abolitionist. Incredible.

  2. From the Ex:

    >> On Monday, a spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office said the Hampton
    >> case was “unique” because “there are multiple victims who are seeking,
    >> and who deserve, justice.”

    To call Hampton a victim who deserves justice is beyond belief. He’s an aggressor. Yes, the cops should be investigated. “But his leg” is not an appropriate rallying cry for going soft on Hampton. That was a consequence of his own stupidity.

    I hope our new DA learns fast how to prosecute a minorly complex case with the possibility of some overlapping liability on the part of more than one party. Because that kind of thing doesn’t seem unique at all in the courts.

  3. If DA Boudin won’t charge thugs who’s physical attacks are caught on video, what will Mr. Soft on Crime do if you’re attacked? He’ll do absolutely nothing. Or maybe you’ll face some sort of criminal charge for defending yourself.

  4. The reason the SFPOA is furious is it takes up to 3 years to get the final report on the internal investigations of officer involved shootings as in the Mario Woods case. By the time the internal investigation is concluded the window to press charges may have passed. I’m not saying Boudin is planning that but it is now a possibility as he has withdrawn charges. The complexities of the liability for the officers only come into play after the officer was attacked with a bottle. Whether the shooting was justified or not should not play into the initial assault the assailant started when he unprovoked walked up to a police car and started wailing on a cop in uniform in broad daylight.

  5. Press, please do your job. First, ask Chesa why the investigation isn’t complete, what is left to do? Or has the DA already realized there is insufficient evidence to charge the officers (because self-defense is the law applicable even to officers) and he’s using the excuse of an incomplete investigation to hide the reality that he just wants to dismiss the charges against the man who attacked officers (and who is represented by his supporters at the public defender’s office). Treat Chesa like you would a republican…question him… Second, question his claim that Hampton can’t be prosecuted without the victim officers testifying. This is simply not true (or no homicide case would ever go to trial). The crime is caught on video tape… many videos. Introducing video footage to prove a crime is standard practice and does not require any ‘victim’. To the extent that one wants to knee jerk response that the final shots were uncalled for, there is still another officer who was attacked and is available to testify.
    More terrifying than Chesa not upholding his oath of office to enforce the law is that the press is giving him a free pass and taking at face value everything he says. Fox news much?

  6. oh for fuck’s sake.

    Mission Local, please, please, please question Boudin harder and do hold him to the same standards you expect out of SFPD. His decision to temporarily drop charges against Hampton to allow for due process in a pretty clear cut case is an insult to the rule of law and reeks of bias against SFPD.

    This city deserves better.

  7. Mission local cares about Boudin’s accountability about as much as they care about the mission officer that got hurt…

    I honestly believe that if the suspect hadn’t been shot after attacking the officer, mission local wouldn’t have even reported it.

    1. Zdog — 

      You can honestly believe what you want, but it doesn’t make you right or smart.

      Yours,

      JE

      1. It doesn’t make Zdog wrong or dumb either… You shouldn’t resort to name calling as a defense of your work. A few readers have called for better reporting. We all want better from reporters… Democracy doesn’t exist without news to hold elected officials accountable and that doesn’t happen when press essentially prints press releases without question. Be as skeptical of Chesa as you are of say… Trump.

        1. Dear Z —

          I read the comments, I moderate the comments, but I don’t formulate my professional self-worth by the comments. For good or ill.

          I’ll tell you straight: Anyone who thinks Mission Local wouldn’t cover an incident in which a police officer was beaten in the head with a bottle is so far off base as to have no credibility at all.

          Yours,

          JE

  8. Joe,

    Believe me, you’re appreciated and generally regarded
    as the best journalist in town.

    When Luke comes over Saturday or before I swear,
    I’m going to ask him to start a $20 a month donation
    to Mission Local from my account.

    If Bloomberg gave you the same percentage of his
    monthly income you’d be getting millions a month.

    Looks like the Giants are loaded in centerfield.

    h.

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