San Francisco Police Department headquarters. Photo by Eleni Balakrishnan

After months of delays, the case against the police officer who shot and killed a fleeing 40-year-old man in 2017 has taken one small step forward this week, with the setting of a preliminary hearing date. 

Christopher Samayoa, the rookie officer who shot and killed suspected carjacker Keita O’Neil five years ago today, has been ordered to appear in court on Jan. 27 for a preliminary hearing. 

Prosecutor Darby Williams told the court today that she had met with Samayoa’s defense attorney, Julia Fox, a police attorney with the Rains Lucia Stern St. Phalle & Silver firm, earlier this morning to agree on the hearing date. 

“Okay. We’ll give it a whirl,” said San Francisco Superior Court Judge Loretta M. Giorgi as she approved the date. 

During a preliminary hearing, the prosecution can present evidence and call witnesses, and Samayoa’s defense team can cross-examine those witnesses. The preliminary hearing is an early stage in the prosecution process, and the presiding judge will decide whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed with a trial. 

O’Neil’s aunt, April Green, was cautiously optimistic after hearing the news; she said she was stuck in rainy morning traffic and was unable to make it in time to see the brief exchange in Department 20 at 9 a.m. 

Over the past year, the case has been delayed by Samayoa’s defense attorney, as well as by the District Attorney’s office. DA Brooke Jenkins took office in July, and said she needed additional time to review all pending criminal cases against police officers. April Green’s attorney, Brian Ford, told Mission Local that Jenkins’ office informed him the investigation was expected to be complete by Dec. 21. 

“I still have some concerns and questions; I wanna see the words go into actions,” said Green. She said she is looking forward to working with Jenkins to ensure the case is not thrown out. 

But, on the five-year anniversary of her nephew’s death, Green said she was pleased. “It’s a nice feeling to know that a positive move has been made,” she said. “I’m glad to know that we’re moving forward, and there is a scheduled preliminary hearing … and hopefully no more continuances.” 

Williams, who was hired by Jenkins and took over the case from former DA Chesa Boudin’s prosecutors, declined to comment on Samayoa’s case to Mission Local after leaving the courtroom. 

Samayoa’s is the fourth case against a police officer that has had a court date just this week, although the other three did not see any progress. None of the officers appeared in court, and instead sent their attorneys on their behalf. 

The case against Christopher Flores, who shot a man in the Mission District in 2019 after he was on the ground and had already been shot multiple times by Flores’ partner, was, on Wednesday, pushed to mid-December. 

Williams told Mission Local that she delayed because Flores’ defense had requested it. On Dec. 15, attorneys will again be expected to set a date for a preliminary hearing for Flores’ case. 

Also on Wednesday morning, the cases against two police officers accused of destroying evidence brought earlier this year were delayed. Assistant District Attorney Daniel Amador requested another setting date for Kevin Lyons and Kevin Sien. 

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REPORTER. Eleni is our reporter focused on policing in San Francisco. She first moved to the city on a whim nearly 10 years ago, and the Mission has become her home. Follow her on Twitter @miss_elenius.

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