In a big week for police prosecutions under District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, four criminally charged cops are slated to appear in court this week.
This is the first time since Jenkins’ July appointment that representatives of her office will appear in court against these defendants. The four officers face charges ranging from destruction of evidence to homicide, all of which were originally filed under DA Chesa Boudin. When Jenkins took office, she put all pending prosecutions of police officers on hold, raising questions about how she would approach the highly anticipated cases.
Now, it appears that at least some of them are moving forward.
Christopher Samayoa, in his first days as a San Francisco police officer in December, 2017, killed 40-year-old Keita O’Neil with a gunshot to the head as O’Neil fled the scene of an alleged carjacking. After months of delays, Samayoa is again scheduled to have his preliminary hearing date set on Thursday.
Thursday’s court date will mark the five-year anniversary of O’Neil’s death.
In the case of another rookie officer, Christopher Flores, both the officer and the suspect were charged in a 2019 Mission District encounter in which Flores shot Jamaica Hampton while Hampton was on the ground — and had already been shot multiple times by another officer. Hampton, whose leg was amputated as a result of the shooting, was also charged for attacking the officers with a glass bottle.
DA spokesperson Randy Quezada confirmed that Flores is up for a pre-trial conference on Wednesday, for charges of negligent discharge of a firearm and assault.
Both cases are being handled by the DA’s Independent Investigations Bureau, which investigates and prosecutes alleged crimes committed by police. When she took office, Jenkins fired most of the attorneys in the division, and her new hire, Darby Williams, is now leading these prosecutions. Williams declined to comment on the pending cases.
Officers Kevin Sien and Kevin Lyons also face misdemeanor charges this week for destroying evidence, as an SFPD internal investigation found. Called to a downtown hotel in 2021 and provided with apparently stolen credit cards, IDs, and drugs discovered in a guest’s luggage, Sien and Lyons are accused of shredding and flushing the evidence, instead of reporting it.
These officers also have pretrial conferences set for Wednesday morning, Quezada said.
Any number of things can happen at a pretrial conference, including both sides providing status updates, settlement discussions, or scheduling of a trial date.
The police department responded differently to each of the DA’s criminal charges. The SFPD sent Sien and Lyons’ case to the DA’s office for prosecution, but kept them employed with the department. Chief Bill Scott fired Samayoa in the months after the fatal shooting.
But in Flores’ case, Scott spoke out against the prosecution, saying the shooting was justified, even though Hampton was on the ground, and Flores’ partner, in an apparent panic, ran toward Flores, shouting, “stop, stop, stop” when he heard Flores shoot.
The SFPD has not confirmed whether Flores is still employed by the department, but records indicate that he is.
Now that the court dates are approaching, it is still unclear how the DA’s office intends to proceed; Jenkins has claimed that she will treat crimes committed by police officers the same as those committed by any other person, but has been elusive in sharing her specific intentions.
In fact, contrary to the law holding all defendants to the same standards, Keita O’Neil’s family and attorney said that prosecutor Williams told them she needed “proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and then some” in order to move forward with Samayoa’s case.
Her office has delayed court dates, and families of victims have contradicted her claims that she is in contact with them about the pending cases.
And more delays may be in store. In the one case that has been to court since the November election solidified Jenkins’ seat as District Attorney, no action was taken. Earlier this month, Officer Kenneth Cha’s defense attorney moved for a continuance, and Williams put up no resistance. Cha, in 2017, shot Sean Moore on the front steps of his home, eventually killing him.