Sean Moore survived being shot multiple times by San Francisco Police officers on his own property in January 2017. His federal civil rights case vs. the city is pending, and District Attorney Chesa Boudin may this month file charges against the officers who shot Moore, a bipolar schizophrenic.
But Moore won’t be participating. The 46-year-old was discovered dead in his cell in San Quentin State Prison on Jan. 20.
The federal civil rights case Moore brought against the city and officers Colin Patino and Kenneth Cha was moving rapidly toward an April 6 trial. But it will likely be delayed sans its key witness: Moore.
“Mr. Moore will not be here to tell his story — and all the anguish that the City and County of San Francisco caused him,” said Adante Pointer, an attorney with the John L. Burris Law Firm who is now representing Moore’s parents.
Moore’s death may also delay another fast-approaching and anticipated decision: Whether Boudin, who ran on a platform of greater police accountability, will file criminal charges against Patino and Cha — the officers whom Moore’s lawsuit alleges escalated a verbal altercation to the point where Cha shot Moore twice as Moore stood on the front porch of his Oceanview home.
In an unusual move, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston in November 2019 ordered the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office to make a criminal charging decision on the officers well before the April trial — an apparent necessity so that Patino and Cha could testify.
The DA’s office, under interim DA Suzy Loftus, agreed to do so by Feb. 10 so that Boudin could “conduct a thorough review, given the range of other responsibilities he will have during the transition,” according to a Dec. 18 letter written by Christine DeBerry, the DA’s chief of staff.
It’s unclear whether Boudin, who took office on Jan. 8, still intends to meet the deadline. The DA’s office has not yet returned Mission Local’s inquiry. But in a Jan. 28 motion, which requested the trial dates be pushed back, the City Attorney’s Office stated that it is “uncertain as to how [Moore’s death] may affect the DA’s decision-making process but it may.”
When asked for comment, a City Attorney spokesperson referred to the Jan. 28 motion, which Illston ultimately granted.
Sean Moore died in a prison cell last week. An SF judge gave Sean that fatal sentence for making threatening calls to a police station last year. That station was where the SFPD officers who shot Sean as he stood unarmed on his own front porch in 2017 still worked.
— Danielle Harris (@danimargo) January 29, 2020
On Jan. 6, 2017, Cha and Patino showed up at Moore’s home in Oceanview at around 4:15 a.m. to investigate a noise complaint, and to determine whether Moore violated a temporary restraining order his neighbor had obtained against him.
“Fuck your order,” Moore told the officers multiple times, explaining he did not violate the restraining order and was taking out his garbage.
An appeals court in May 2018 upheld an earlier decision that the officers, at that point, should have left, as the investigation was complete. But body camera footage reveals the officers confronting Moore as he stood on his steps, and a verbal spat between Moore and the officers escalated.
Cha eventually pepper-sprayed Moore, and as the officers tried to arrest him, Patino struck Moore with a baton. When Moore seemingly retaliated, Cha fired at Moore twice, striking him in the stomach and leg. Moore lived and was hospitalized.
The lawsuit Moore filed against the city in January 2018 alleges that the officers “ignored” their training by failing to use “time and distance” while dealing with him. Time and distance is a tactic police are increasingly utilizing to defuse tension with subjects, especially subjects who are in crisis and/or suffer from mental illness — like Moore, who suffered from schizophrenia.
The charges against Moore, including battery on an officer and violating a restraining order, were all eventually thrown out.
But in an unrelated incident, Moore was incarcerated in July 2018 for assaulting two kids and calling them racial epithets at a park near his home in August 2017, a District Attorney spokesman told Mission Local in November. In November 2019 he was transferred to San Quentin State Prison to serve a three-year sentence for phoning death threats to an employee at the Taraval police station.
On Jan. 20, Moore was found unresponsive in his San Quentin “dormitory,” said Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. “Medical measures were initiated but were unsuccessful,” and he was pronounced dead at 3:44 p.m., Thornton said.
The Marin County coroner’s office said Tuesday that the cause of death remains under investigation.
Pointer, the lawyer representing Moore’s family, said that the District Attorney’s Office “finished the job by criminally prosecuting [Moore] for acting out in a manner that’s consistent with his disability.”
“The family of Sean Moore is hoping that justice will finally be served,” Pointer added. “These officers should be in jail and criminally prosecuted — and forced to pay for the life they contributed to taking.”