District Attorney Chesa Boudin’s office announced homicide charges today against San Francisco Police Officer Kenneth Cha following the 2017 shooting of Sean Moore. Moore, who was unarmed, died in 2020 from his injuries.
The prosecution marks the second time in San Francisco history that the District Attorney has filed homicide charges against an on-duty police officer. The first was in late 2020, when Boudin charged rookie officer Christopher Samayoa for shooting dead unarmed Keita O’Neil from out the window of his police car.
A warrant has been issued for Cha’s arrest, for charges of voluntary manslaughter and assault with a semi-automatic firearm, and included enhancements for personal use of a firearm and infliction of great bodily injury. DA spokesperson Rachel Marshall said she believed Cha was still on active duty with the police department as of this morning. Transparent California data from 2019 shows his total pay and benefits amount to nearly $240,000.
On Jan. 6, 2017, Cha and Officer Colin Patino responded to Moore’s Oceanview home after receiving a noise complaint from a neighbor. The neighbor had a restraining order against Moore, who was schizophrenic and allegedly banging on the walls.
A dispute, caught on the officers’ body-mounted cameras, ensued between the officers and Moore, who said he had not violated his neighbor’s restraining order but was simply taking out his trash. Moore asked the officers to leave repeatedly, but Cha and Patino continued to argue with Moore, and came up the stairs to his home several times. At one point, Cha pepper-sprayed Moore.
When Moore eventually stepped down past his gate to pick up an item he had dropped, the officers rushed him with their batons — and, during the ensuing struggle, Cha shot Moore twice. The shooting occured eight minutes after the officers arrived on the scene; it is unclear whether officers called for backup or summoned a crisis intervention team.
However, Cha and Patino do not appear to have been in compliance with the SFPD’s use-of-force and de-escalation policy, implemented mere weeks before the incident, which instructs officers to “create time and distance from the subject … to avoid creating an immediate threat that may require the use of force.”
“We rely on officers to follow their training and to de-escalate situations,” said Boudin. “Instead, in just eight minutes, Officer Cha elevated a nonviolent encounter to one that took Sean Moore’s life.”
Moore suffered health complications after being shot in the abdomen, and died three years later on Jan. 20, 2020. Moore, in January, 2018, filed a federal lawsuit against the officers, which his family took over after his death. Earlier this year, the city reached a $3.25 million settlement with Moore’s family.
“Sean Moore’s family rejoiced at hearing the good news Officer Cha is going to be criminally prosecuted,” said an attorney for the family, Adante Pointer, in a statement. “Fortunately, his mother and brother are here to see this day. Unfortunately, Sean’s father passed away with a grieving heart, believing no one would be held responsible.”
Pointer added that “the criminal system backed [Cha] up until this decision was made.”
Cha was later involved in another civilian shooting in 2017, when he shot and killed a man who was attacking a Subway employee with a knife. That shooting was ruled to be justified by the DA’s Independent Investigations Bureau.
Yoel Y. Haile, the director of the ACLU of Northern California’s Criminal Justice Program, commended the charges from Boudin, but added that “Mr. Moore’s death is also a searing indictment of the entire carceral system, one that responds to mental health disorders with criminalization and incarceration instead of with treatment and compassion.”
Although former District Attorney George Gascón had brought charges against Moore for his actions during the 2017 incident, these were subsequently dismissed by the San Francisco Superior Court. Boudin, meanwhile, said that Cha “lacked a lawful basis to even arrest” Moore, and other courts upheld the superior court’s decision and found that the officers acted unlawfully.
Tony Montoya, president of the San Francisco police union, said in a statement today that officers Cha and Patino had encountered a “very hostile” Sean Moore in responding to the call for service. “We support Officer Cha’s constitutionally protected right to present his defense against these charges that stemmed from this extremely volatile incident that an autopsy concluded took Mr. Moore’s life … “
The charging of two former Alameda County sheriff’s deputies last week marks the fourth case of criminal charges against police officers since he took office in January 2020, a move unheard of in San Francisco before last year.