Contrary to District Attorney Brooke Jenkins’ announcement last month, three years remain before the statute of limitations runs out on manslaughter charges against SFPD officer Christopher Samayoa for a 2017 shooting — not a mere nine days. That’s according to the family of police shooting victim Keita O’Neil and their attorney, who met in person with Attorney General Rob Bonta today.
The meeting also revealed that Bonta may not have received certain evidence from Jenkins’ office, which offered the case up to the AG last month.
One expert report that Bonta appeared unfamiliar with, according to attorney Brian Ford, could indicate that Samayoa shot the victim, O’Neil, on sight — too quickly “to even mentally process what he saw and form an actual fear.”
Ford said he would try to work with Bonta’s office to ensure the AG got all the evidence in the case, but is still uncertain how Bonta intends to proceed. He now knows, however, that Bonta has more time to decide. Jenkins had at first indicated that the AG would have to take over the case within days of her dismissal, or the statute of limitations would lapse.
“I would say that his office is certainly keeping their cards close to their chest,” Ford said. But he added that he was “cautiously optimistic” leaving Bonta’s office in Oakland this afternoon.
April Green, O’Neil’s aunt, said after the meeting that she was reassured, even though she didn’t get a definitive answer from Bonta. “Now I feel a little better, you know what I mean, it’s like I can breathe a little bit.”
Green and her attorney Ford met with Bonta on Monday afternoon, the day before Jenkins is set to dismiss manslaughter charges against the former San Francisco police officer.
Earlier on Monday morning, dozens of supporters of the O’Neil family gathered on the steps of the California Supreme Court at 350 McAllister St., calling for increased pressure on the Attorney General’s office to take on the case.
Last week, Jenkins moved to dismiss the charges against Chris Samayoa, the rookie officer who in 2017 shot and killed Keita O’Neil, an unarmed Black carjacking suspect. The presiding judge delayed the dismissal by one week, until Tuesday, March 7.
The Attorney General has purportedly been reviewing the case since early February, when Jenkins and Ford, Green’s attorney, both sent letters asking the AG to get involved.
In February, Jenkins wrote a letter to Bonta, casting doubt on the legitimacy of the charges. She blamed her predecessor, DA Chesa Boudin, and suggested conflicts of interest prevented her and her lead prosecutor from taking the case. Boudin denounced Jenkins’ claims, calling her claims “offensive” and “dishonest.”
In the letter, Jenkins announced her intent to dismiss the case on March 1, the scheduled preliminary hearing date.
A letter from Ford to Bonta, meanwhile, accused Jenkins of colluding with Samayoa’s defense team and demanded support from the state prosecutor.
Bonta has not confirmed what his office will do tomorrow, but Green and Ford said he told them that, even if the DA’s dismissal goes through, there is still time for his office to pick up the case.
O’Neil’s mother, Judy O’Neil, made a rare appearance at today’s rally. Judy O’Neil, 74, has dementia and appeared unable to give a longer speech, but raised her fist in support as other speakers named victims of police violence and demanded accountability.
“I love my son. And I miss him. And I want that officer prosecuted. Do you hear me?” said a tearful Judy O’Neil in her brief address from her wheelchair to the audience gathered Monday.
Behind her, metal fences erected earlier this morning by a Public Works crew blocked rally attendees from accessing the building entrance.
April Green, Judy O’Neil’s younger sister, has been the primary advocate for her nephew’s case since her sister began suffering from health issues. Green now says she has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and is worried she won’t be able to advocate as effectively when she begins treatment.
Today, however, Green sat in a folding chair beside her sister to demand justice for her nephew, and called out local politicians who failed to stand beside her, but denounced police violence in Memphis just weeks ago from nearby City Hall.
“This is really sad to me, in the city of San Francisco that is supposed to be so liberal, that we have people that are of Black race that [are] not even helping their own,” Green said.
In a letter to Ford last week, Bonta’s office wrote that it did not believe Jenkins had a conflict of interest warranting her attempt to recuse herself from the case.
“The legal circumstances mandating recusal are very narrow,” wrote Chief Assistant Attorney General Lance Winters on Bonta’s behalf. “The District Attorney’s disagreement with the charging decision of the prior District Attorney and accompanying accusations of impropriety do not create a recusable conflict.”
But the letter stopped short of committing to take on the case. It said that DAs have the “primary responsibility” of investigating and prosecuting cases in their jurisdictions — even though O’Neil’s case, had it occurred a few years later, would have been automatically sent to the Attorney General’s office.
“Frankly, he’s our last hope for justice in this case. We need his intervention, and therefore, we need you here,” said Ford to the dozens gathered along the Civic Center plaza on Monday morning. “We need you to make sure that he knows that this state, this city, the people of this great jurisdiction, need his intervention to make sure that killer cops are held accountable, to make sure this prosecution does not become like many of the others that are swept under the rug of political expediency.”
Event organizer Maria Cristina agreed: “Justice is only going to happen when we, the people, are organized and demand justice.”
Fellow organizer Kaylah Williams May asked attendees to pull out their phones and sign the Grassroots Law Project petition. “We have until tomorrow to find out,” May said.
Jenkins, in her original letter to Attorney General Bonta’s office, said the statute of limitations on the Samayoa case would expire within nine days of her dismissal of the charges. Asked whether this timeframe is accurate, Bonta’s office declined to confirm to Mission Local the exact statute of limitations for the prosecution.
Today, Ford noted that first-degree murder has no statute of limitations, and said he believes that such charges could be warranted, as Samayoa “had drawn his gun, cocked his gun, and pointed his gun before ever seeing Keita O’Neil.”
Cleo Moore, the mother of Sean Moore, who was shot by San Francisco police officers in 2017 and later died from his injuries, expressed her fears that Jenkins will next drop the charges against the officer who killed her son — the second and only other officer with pending homicide charges in San Francisco.
That case has seen little movement, and Officer Kenneth Cha is still employed by the SFPD. Cha also shot and killed another man in a Subway restaurant.
“I don’t know whether she’s going to drop the charges, but I believe she is, because they’ve procrastinated,” said Moore, a former nurse at San Francisco General Hospital. She added that she recently received an apology from Chief Bill Scott for her son’s death, but “’sorry’ is too late.”
“We gave our life to the city and county of San Francisco. And this is the thanks that we get,” Moore said. “They protect killer cops from the mayor on down to Jenkins, to Mr. Scott, the chief of police.”
Occasionally, a car driving by would honk its horn in support of the demonstrators, who carried large cutout photos of people killed by San Francisco police, and a banner reading “In the name of God charge the killer cops with murder.”
Samayoa is scheduled for his next hearing on Tuesday morning, in Department 20 at the San Francisco Superior Court.
The AG jumped to take on a “conflict of interest” when Boudin didn’t want to prosecute the guy who stole school board recall petitions a couple of years ago (based on the slim pretext that the guy was a supporter of Boudin’s – he did not steal Boudin recall petitions), and that was just for a dumb misdemeanor. But so far he’s refused to take on any conflicts cases from Jenkins in serious matter, which include this case and the present matter involving Breed’s brother, claiming that she can just wall herself off. In other words, Bonta was happy to get his fellow progressive Boudin out of a bad sticky situation, but not willing to do so for Jenkins. I’d be curious to see the ratio of conflicts cases Bonta takes on from other progressive DAs vs other “conservative” DAs. All that said, it probably would be best if prospective police prosecutions were not left up to the local jurisdictions where there may be inherent conflicts – make them all AG matters.
A quick summary of what happened in the shooting would be helpful!
I want to express that many, and probably most, San Francisco citizens do not care about this carjacker. He made his choice and the world is better off without him. His family got $2.5 million, more than he was ever going to be worth. I’m tired of hearing from them.
I know that Mission Local has an endless love for criminals, but I want to express that many if not most San Franciscans do not.
It’s a stretch to portray the video as O’Neil running toward the police car, as Jenkins did in her letter to the AG. O’Neil ran between the vehicles, as is evident in the video. Jenkins is parroting the portrayl of the defense.
Samayoa’s partner knows if O’Neil reached for the back of his waistband, or not. His testimony could’ve spelled trouble for O’Neil. Not like we haven’t heard ‘he reached’ from a cop before. A jury would be skeptical of that one.