Gun points up staircase, toward a man in a spotlight standing in a doorway.
Body-worn camera footage of officers confronting Sean Moore at his house.

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.   

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.” 

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Julian grew up in the East Bay and moved to San Francisco in 2014. Before joining Mission Local, he wrote for the East Bay Express, the SF Bay Guardian, and the San Francisco Business Times.

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  1. Its time to take away bages from outlaw cops. Apparently their motto is to shoot any and everything no matter what. Discipline means nothing to them. Caring and understanding ones immediate needs has no place in their world either. Using bades, to commit murder and then trying to cover up their miss deeds, has got to stop. What goes around, comes around. Understanding is the best thing in the world. Maybe the wild bill cops, need to try it sometimes, it will go along way.

  2. Both officers will be cleared. Lawful shooting. DA Che(sa) will make the announcement but case away blame from an “outraged community”. He will blame the final outcome on a poor investigation, DA Gascon, the judge who sentenced Sean to prison. But in the end anyone with a brain and knowledge of the law (hard to come by in this emotionally based town) know this was a lawful shooting.

    1. Mark-
      Are you sure that this part is true?

      >”when police come to your house at 4:15 in the morning to accuse you of a crime you haven’t committed”

      According to KQED the police were there because a neighbor called 911 at 4AM because Moore was banging on the wall and violating a restraining order. Why do you believe that the neighbor was lying?

      1. Banging on the wall? That’s a capital offense? Since when? If that was your mother, would you feel the same way? Yeah, you probably would.

  3. This man was a real pillar of the community. It doesn’t matter how much training you have, people will react to aggressive and unhinged people attacking them, verbally or otherwise. The man brought it on himself, no reason to punish police for protecting the community.

    1. Yes, clearly the fault of the victim. First of all, he has no business being schizophrenic before dawn. Secondly, when police come to your house at 4:15 in the morning to accuse you of a crime you haven’t committed, you should be open, friendly, and unfailingly polite. Moore should have read the officers their rights before proclaiming his innocence. Perhaps the Police Commission will decide to institute de-escalation training for schizophrenic home owners so the SFPD can pursue its unblemished record of protecting the community without bother.

    2. I think what was written is that the man was putting out his garbage, and the officers should have left after learning that was all he was doing? If you experience a significant amount of social hostility, for no apparent reason, let’s call it “racism”, “discrimination,” “prejudice,” you might find yourself having adverse mental health issues. That’s bad enough, without being shot dead, don’t you think?