District Attorney Brooke Jenkins on Thursday told the family of Keita O’Neil, an unarmed carjacking suspect shot dead by a San Francisco policeman in 2017, that she intends to dismiss the charges against the officer who pulled the trigger.
The news came on the heels of the family on Thursday calling on Attorney General Rob Bonta to intervene in the prosecution of the responsible officer, for both legal and ethical reasons.
Brian Ford, the attorney representing O’Neil’s family, told Mission Local that due to “issues with the ethics and motivations of the prosecution of the case, [Jenkins] says that a she can’t, in good faith, move forward.”
Jenkins, in a letter addressed to the Attorney General on Wednesday, outlined her reasons, and said she would dismiss the charges unless the Attorney General took over the case.
The DA’s explanation for backing off the case, to Ford, confirmed a suspected conflict of interest at Jenkins’ office. Cases should be pursued based on “evidence and the law,” he said, adding that Jenkins’ decision “makes it all the more urgent for Mr. Bonta to intervene.”
Ford wrote in a letter on Thursday that Jenkins’ office should be removed from the case because of her office’s continued preoccupation with scrutinizing ousted former DA Chesa Boudin, instead of prosecuting the years-old case. After sending the letter, Ford and O’Neil’s aunt, April Green, learned that the DA planned to dismiss the case.
“It appears that the case was filed for political reasons and not in the interests of justice. I cannot pursue this case out of political convenience,” Jenkins wrote in her letter to Attorney General Bonta, impugning the actions and decisions of her predecessor Boudin. “Given the conflicts that have arisen, the evidentiary problems, and the complete lack of good faith surrounding the filing of this matter, we cannot ethically proceed with this prosecution.”
O’Neil was killed while fleeing in 2017, and the rookie officer who shot him, Christopher Samayoa, was subsequently discharged from the police force. In 2020, Samayoa was charged by Boudin for the killing, but the case has moved along slowly.
Reached today by text, Boudin fired back at Jenkins.
“Jenkins’ dismissal is offensive and her excuses are dishonest: We charged this case based on the facts — the same facts that led the police department to fire the officer, led the judge to sign the arrest warrant, and led the city to settle a multi-million-dollar lawsuit with Keita O’Neil’s family,” he wrote. “It’s clear Jenkins has been coordinating with the officer’s defense team to avoid a public hearing on the disturbing facts of the case. She is scapegoating me to try to divert attention from what this decision ultimately reveals about her: Jenkins will not hold everyone equally accountable under the law, she is deeply politically motivated, and she does not care about victims of police violence.”
Just before a long-awaited preliminary hearing last month, Samayoa’s defense team filed a motion claiming that exculpatory evidence — that is, evidence that could clear Samayoa — was withheld by the prosecution. How, exactly, any of the new information obtained by Jenkins’ office was exculpatory remains unclear.
The DA’s office did not protest that motion or the delay, something Ford and O’Neil’s aunt, April Green, found concerning. Green and Ford announced that week that they planned to call on the Attorney General to take over the case.
Green recently discovered health issues of her own, and said she has to undergo surgery to remove a tumor later this month.
“I feel like my voice — if I’m not available to speak — that my nephew’s case, before I recover, will be dismissed,” Green said shortly before she met with Jenkins Thursday afternoon. “And so, I need the Attorney General to get in and be my voice, and be the voice for my nephew. Because my voice is finna go down.”
“This case is too tied up in local politics; we need an independent agency,” Ford told Mission Local. “Mr. Bonta has an affirmative duty to step in this case.”
Legally, Ford continued, the Attorney General is authorized to step in: In fact, Assembly Bill 1506, which went into effect in 2021, requires a state prosecutor to investigate when an officer shoots and kills an unarmed civilian.
In his 12-page letter, which was sent to Bonta’s office today, Ford outlined the myriad ways that Jenkins’ office had stalled the case: When she was appointed as DA after Boudin was recalled, Jenkins removed the former prosecutors working on the case, and put all police prosecution cases on hold while new prosecutors reviewed them.
In recent weeks, two DA investigators approached the DA’s office with concerns about the Samayoa prosecution, according to prosecutor Darby Williams. The January, 2023, interviews with the investigators caused the preliminary hearing to be delayed.
Ford said he was told that Jenkins referred the issue to the City Attorney’s office, which would then conduct an investigation into the charging decisions. The City Attorney’s office confirmed to Mission Local last month that investigators on the Samayoa prosecution are being interviewed.
Nonetheless, the sudden appearance of the investigators — including Jeffrey Pailet, who was fired by Boudin, is suing the city, and is represented by the same law firm that is defending Samayoa — threw a wrench in the case.
“Why would Ms. Jenkins believe this material to be exculpatory when it isn’t even evidence? Why would her office fail to oppose the continuance?” Ford wrote in the letter.
In a statement, Jenkins said that “the irregularities and facts that have come to light surrounding the case against officer Samayoa suggest that the charges were not filed in good faith [and] appear to be politically motivated.” This, she said, “made it impossible” for her office to prosecute the case.
Pailet, who in 2021 sued Boudin for wrongful termination, has also disputed the prosecution of Officer Kenneth Cha. Cha shot the unarmed Sean Moore in 2017 on Moore’s own front steps. Moore died in 2020 of his injuries.
“The opinions of the D.A. Inspectors are not ‘evidence,’ and they are not relevant, nor are they exculpatory,” Ford wrote Bonta. He accused Jenkins and the lead prosecutor on the case, Williams, of “manufacturing irrelevant discovery and delays for the defense.”
“She is more interested in investigating the Boudin administration’s charging decisions than [prosecuting] law enforcement officers for their crimes,” Ford wrote.
Bonta, who co-authored AB 1506, stated at the time that external oversight could help ensure trust between law enforcement and communities.
“Impartial, fair investigations and independent reviews of officer-involved shootings are one essential component for achieving that trust,” wrote Attorney General Bonta in a press release around the time of AB 1506’s passage.
This is a developing story and may be updated.
Me thinks Ms. Jenkins protests too much. In other words, Jenkins is projecting her own political bias and ambition onto her much-maligned predecessor. Apparently, it is still open season on police in S.F. shooting unarmed black citizens.
I am overjoyed with the DA’s decision to dismiss!
This article is one of the most thorough articles written. THANK YOU Mission Local.
Jenkins is OBSTRUTING JUSTICE!!
She ran her campaign against Boudin and still is on that bandwagon.
She lacks a backbone1
Thank you District Attorney Jenkins! We need to focus on getting criminals who are stealing bicycles, murdering, violating sit-lie laws, raping, illegally camping, sex trafficking, littering/ polluting, and murdering people by selling fentanyl off the streets and into prison or mandatory conservatorship. Boudin was the more corrupt and cruel politician in City history; we know that he only did this prosecution for political purposes.
Yep, the real reason for the recall: Police union didn’t like bad officers being held accountable. Jenkins is the police union’s tool.
The family got $2.5 million. That’s enough.
Y’all can keep texting with your god Chesa Boudin but he’s not the District Attorney any more for a very good reason.
Yes! Mission Local should be ashamed for giving a voice to people like Boudin, Trump, Campos, and Putin.
I’m sorry, is this performance art?
Are you suggesting a Presidential Election?
Boudin and Trump
Campos and Putin
Well Boudin and Trump have them on height …
Friday afternoon levity ???
It seems to me that the money the murder victim’s family received from San Francisco is an admission of culpability. Otherwise, why pay out the money? Moreover, it is disgusting, in my opinion, to put a dollar value on a human life. That is the mindset of a slaveholder.
Disappointing. The letter to the AG reads as if it was written by Samayoa’s defense attorney. Jenkins even takes a passive aggressive dig at O’Neil’s aunt. Zero class.
And speaking of zero class, Delagnes drops in to gloat. Samayoa graduated from Riordan. Wow, that’s neat-o.
Sometimes the “very easy-to-follow rules” are very hard to follow.
Good for her. A step in the right direction for SF.
It’s apparent a lot of the commentators (or perhaps I should say posts, rather than assume multiple people) have failed to actually review the details of the incident.
Previous coverage by Mission Local, or other sources, is very unified. The rookie officer violated his training and department policy in multiple ways. Many officers backed then Chief Scott’s decision to fire him, because of just how egregious his actions were.
O’Neil’s family has already received a settlement to end a civil trial that the city, apparently, felt there was enough evidence that his actions were so beyond any reasonable use of force.
Fast forward five years, and apparently everything the officer did was totally ok? Sure, he recklessly fired a gun in a manner that killed an unarmed person, and could well have struck bystanders. But what, because he was so unqualified for the job that he wasn’t able to control his fear, he somehow gets a pass on being held responsible? Do we really want to hand cops a free pass for any action as long as they can always say they had some fear?
I am sure the officer was afraid, in this gun-saturated country, where every time an officer approaches a car, he/she may find a gun pointed at his/her face. So let’s get to the root of this problem and work on getting all these guns off our streets!!
Some are OK with a cop shooting someone running away, not me. He may have committed a crime, but cops should not be the judge, jury and executioner. He was not brandishing a gun at anyone, as he was unarmed.
Show us the exculpatory evidence!
To show how really upset he is, Chesa should announce he’s running against Jenkins in 2024.
Think he’d have a chance with a Presidential turnout ??
Nick Bosa NFL Defensive Player of Year
He got 46 votes
Guy in second place got 2 votes
Go Niners !!
Exactly. Just because you (possibly) committed a crime doesn’t mean the constitution and laws don’t protect your rights. Even suspected criminals are U.S. citizens.
So clearly officers are not being vetted well in the recruitment process, nor are they being trained and managed properly. One day maybe the city can get permission from the police union to do so.
One BIG move ??
Make Police Chief an elected position with the same independence as the Public Defender and Sheriff !
Right now the department is part of what one comment called:
‘The Underground Railroad for bad cops’
They call these guys, ‘Laterals’ for Lateral Transfers and they pick the worst.
Then … ??
Make them Training Officers.
One beat up a former ‘friend’ of Willie Brown in North Beach and cause it was Willie they came down on him and he was teaching Rookies to trade Jackets and stuff when they were going to go kick butt.
A truly Progressive Police Chief (we had one in Gascon and POA hated him) …
Progressive Chief will give us real permanent Foot Patrols for one thing.
She’s gonna get grief for that.
The absurdity of the Mission Local just never ends , but it is entertaining.
Has the Mission Local ever done any investigation into the background and character of officer Samoyan for example are the readers of your paper
Aware that this officer grew up as a lifetime resident of the Mission district, the son of hardworking, active residents, who also happen to be Hispanic.
Are they aware that Chris attended Riordan High School, and after graduating went on to not only receive a degree from SF State but also a Master degree that came in handy while he was volunteering for Habitat for Humanity during his summers in South America. Are your readers aware that Keita O’Neal was a career criminal who had just taken part in a robbery of a lotto truck was identified at the season of the robbery as armed.
While Mr Oneal’s death was tragic, Mr. Samoyan never committed a crime and apparently Mr. Boudin was the only person in the DA’s office who believed criminal charges were appropriate. Just a few small fact you fail to mention in your usual anti police rhetoric, and why your paper has no credibility in the world of common sense journalism
Mission Local did some great investigative work on Gary Delagnes, disgraced former Police Officer Association President, a few years back:
Gary Delagnes, the union’s president from 2004 to 2013 has vented to his colleagues that, following his Feb. 28 Facebook post labeling recently departed Public Defender Jeff Adachi “a serial adulterer who drove his wife to a suicide attempt” he has been summarily relieved of his consulting position by the POA executive board.
“Only in San Francisco is Jeff Adachi a hero,” Delagnes wrote on Facebook. “Have your hero San Francisco and congratulations.”
This is not the first Facebook screed from Delagnes. In 2016, after the creation of Mario Woods Day, he labeled the Board of Supervisors “idiots” who “honored a street thug who stabbed another African American.”
Imagine being so dumb that you think police murder is ok because the officer went to Riordan. LOL.
I can understand your peddling for sympathy, but this is not how it’s supposed to work.
A few years ago I ran into you and Marty Halloran a City Hall event and I asked what you’d think of making the Office of Chief of Police of the City and County of San Francisco an elected office again.
You said, “Yes”.
Do you still feel that way ?
People go to jail for something they did. All the rest of what they did in life is irrelevant.
I need a big name from the Past just getting back in fray to interview.
I know you since you snatched all those newspapers.
Tony De Renzo works with me and you can bring Halloran.
See if you want to appear here …
People would love the video.
This is the legal and ethical decision. We the people should only be charged under the strictest standards. DA Boudin was not ethical in his office. He let victims be re victimized , he allowed career criminals off. Asian SFers were scared when he was in charge.
Withholding exculpatory evidence is prosecutorial misconduct and the case must be dismissed.
You’re wrong as that would be a Brady offense. Testimony is from disgruntled former employees who were ousted when Chesa began his reforms.
Except there is no exculpatory evidence. Only lies from an unethical DA doing the bidding of the POA.
This action is consistent with the landslide popular vote to remove Chesa. I am comfortable with it.
It’s easy to be comfortable with it because it wasn’t your family killed by this cop. Where’s the justice for this woman’s family?
The ‘victim’ was committing a crime! Hello!! Armed! For Christ’s sake!
As I understand it the issue in these cases is not so much whether the suspect was armed, but rather whether the cop believed that the suspect was armed. The running away ipso facto is indicative that he had on him something dangerous that he did not want to have revealed.
But the bigger issue here is that the suspect tried to resist arrest by fleeing, having been ordered to be still. So my question is this: If a cop points a gun at you and says “Freeze!” or some such, and instead you run away, what is a reasonable expectation of what happens next?
If shooting is not the outcome then what is the basis of a cop pointing a gun at a suspect in the first place? Surely the point of that is to motivate cooperation under threat of immediate and potentially deadly harm?
@Ron: “The running away ipso facto is indicative that he had on him something dangerous that he did not want to have revealed.”
Not the case, ppl run away from cops for a variety of reasons. E.g. people behind on alimony and at risk to be held in jail over it.
Yes, Officer Samayoa said the suspect was reaching into his waistband as he ran towards him. No evidence, video or otherwise, exists to show his belief at the time was unreasonable. In “Graham v. Connor” the U.S. Supreme Court held in a 9-0 decision that the “reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, and its calculus must embody an allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions about the amount of force necessary in a particular situation.” Samayoa should’ve never been charged.
No. The suspect wasn’t armed. That’s why Samayoa was fired from the force. And it’s why he should be prosecuted.
Over 2,000 people died from fentanyl because of boudin’s crimes. Where is your sympathy for the actual victims of crime in our City?
Sarah, can you provide a list showing the proper order in which to express sympathy? I don’t want to do it wrong! Some sort of hierarchy of worthiness would be super helpful, thanks! Paul
Funny how the same people who have NO sympathy for alcoholics and drug users have all of a sudden become the champion of the fentanyl addicts. And this in a city and state where smoking cigarettes is equated to crimes against humanity. Blaming Chesa for the deaths of the addicts is your bullshit excuse to mask your conservative, racist, and exclusionary politics.
And BTW, the cops killed 1176 in 2022 with impunity. Did all these people deserve to die at the hands of police? Since when it’s ok for the cops to be judge, jury, and executioner?
This is not justice. All of the publicity related to the recall was blaming Boudin for stuff that Breed is responsible for, not this issue. Police union got what their $7 million paid for though, and now the DA dismisses everyone from jury duty who supports ACLU.
The person was in the commission of a crime. Obviously, shooting an unarmed person was a terrible decision. However, getting a conviction would likely be impossible. The officer was new to the force. There is not going to be a record of horrible judgment.
the family was paid out civilly. The officer was fired. Burning money on a prosecution that would fail (the officer had no history, was new, the person was running, etc) is wasteful.
Chesa Boudin could be a great Public Defender. His election to being the DA was like placing Patrick Mahomes as a middle linebacker.
There was no, “landslide”.
A billionaire spent ten mil in an off/year election for a ‘Minority Rule’ victory that was 55% to 45% in low turnout.
I’m a big Justice Reform guy cause I spent most of my career as a Reform School Teacher in one facet of the job or ever.
I hiked in the woods with SFPD and Severely Disturbed kids all risking our lives up the mountains in Marin and camped there.
This is all about will we have Criminal Justice Reform because our present system does not work.
I say ‘Yes’ as does Boudin and Jenkins wants to Double Down on the Road to San Quentin.
All these silly insults from angry people trying to outsource their misery just sucks.
Boudin for DA in 2024 !!