The Board of Supervisors will decide today whether to approve a $2.5 million settlement to Judy O’Neil, the mother of Keita O’Neil, an unarmed carjacking suspect who was shot and killed by a police officer in 2017.
San Francisco Police Department officer Christopher Samayoa, on the job only four days and now awaiting a criminal trial, shot and killed O’Neil, 42, after he and his training officer pursued O’Neil into a dead-end street. O’Neil jumped out of the allegedly stolen car and, as he ran by the officers, who were still in their vehicle, Samayoa shot at O’Neil through the window of the passenger seat.
“Judy lost her son and caregiver,” said Judy O’Neil’s attorney Adante Pointer. “It’s been very painful for her to come to grips with. Her health dramatically took a plunge after he was killed. To this day, she consistently calls out for him and cries when talking about him. Her sister has stepped up and is taking care of her, but no one can replace a son’s love for his mother.”
In 2019, the case was delayed because Judy O’Neil’s medical condition “required appointment of a guardian,” according to court documents.
Shortly after her son’s death in December, 2017, Judy O’Neil brought the civil lawsuit against the city; the rookie officer of four days who shot her son, Christopher Samayoa; and his training officer, Edric Talusan, for failing to stop the shooting. After a hearing in July, U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Spero cleared Talusan of the claims made against him.
A settlement was reached in late July, before the case went to trial.
“Fighting these cases is a long uphill battle that takes a toll on everyone,” said Pointer. “First the family had to deal with the loss of his life, then the character attacks on him all along waiting to receive justice at the hands of a system that moves at a snail’s pace while the killer walks around free … ”
Police Chief Bill Scott fired Samayoa months after the shooting, in March, 2018.
But the legal system isn’t done with Samayoa yet: In November, 2020, several criminal charges, including manslaughter and assault, were filed by District Attorney Chesa Boudin against Samayoa, the first known of their kind to be brought against a police officer in San Francisco. This case is still pending.
On Dec. 1, 2017, Keita O’Neil, 42, had allegedly stolen a California State Lottery minivan near 23rd and Arkansas streets. Talusan and Samayoa responded to the call, and ended up in pursuit of the van in the Bayview District. According to court documents, O’Neil ended up cornered on a dead-end street, jumped out of the van, and ran past the squad car.
“Once O’Neil left the van, there was less than a second before Samayoa shot him,” court documents read. Samayoa fired a single shot through his window, hitting O’Neil in the head.
The shooting was caught on camera, even though Samayoa only turned on his body-mounted camera after firing his gun, as police body-mounted cameras begin recording about 30 seconds prior to activation. According to his testimony, Talusan attempted to activate his camera when he began pursuing the van, but his camera did not capture any footage of the shooting.
In its investigation of the shooting, the Department of Police Accountability sustained some allegations against Talusan, court documents show. The Police Department determined that Talusan did not adequately supervise his trainee, and demoted him from patrol to inspecting commercial trucks for compliance.
The SFPD confirmed that Talusan is now working at Richmond District station.
“Any loss of life is a tragedy, and Mr. O’Neil’s case is no exception. This proposed settlement is an appropriate resolution given the inherent costs of continued litigation,” said Jen Kwart, a spokesperson for the City Attorney’s office. “There is no admission of liability on the part of the police department or the city.”
Last week, the Government Audit and Oversight Committee recommended the settlement be urgently presented for a vote by the full Board of Supervisors, which will take place today.