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Civil rights attorney John Burris has filed a civil lawsuit asking for “no less than” $25 million in damages on behalf of the parents of Banko Brown, who was shot and killed by a Walgreens security guard last month.

The complaint names Walgreens, Kingdom Group Protective Services and security guard Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony, who fatally shot the unarmed Brown at 6:30 p.m. on April 27. Burris is claiming this was a negligent wrongful death.

The suit is being brought “to vindicate Anthony’s wrongful taking of Banko’s life,” said Burris in a press release. It is being filed on behalf of Terry and Kevinisha Brown, Brown’s parents.

“This will help bring justice and change for Banko Brown,” said Terry Brown. In light of family conflicts at the previous day’s funeral services and burial, Terry said he’s confident Burris’ suit will bring some much-needed solace, and change what he considers “bad policies” that endanger lives.

Burris will hold a press conference at 1 p.m. in his Oakland offices, showing stills and slowed-down videos to highlight the positioning of Anthony and Brown at the time of the shooting.

This morning, Burris said the videos “will show the officer was in a position of safety, and that Banko was exiting the store. [Anthony’s] life was not in danger.”

On May 15, District Attorney Brooke Jenkins declined to file charges against Anthony. As early as May 1, she stated that the evidence in the case “clearly” showed him to be operating in self-defense, as he was believed himself to be in “mortal danger.” Anthony claims Brown threatened to stab him, repeatedly, while pinned to the ground during a fight following Brown’s shoplifting attempt. No other witnesses could corroborate this threat.

The complaint states that “Anthony’s failure to exercise reasonable care was the proximate cause of Mr. Brown’s death.”

That failure, according to Burris, is the fault of the three named parties: Walgreens, Kingdom Group and Anthony himself. In the complaint, Burris explains that Walgreens’ policy of hiring armed security personnel to confront suspected shoplifters, especially in the downtown area of San Francisco, which sees higher numbers of unhoused and under-resourced people, presented a direct danger to shoppers.

Add to that Walgreens’ ever-changing rules around use of force: According to Anthony and internal security firm records, he was instructed to begin using force against suspected shoplifters shortly before the shooting. This constant shift, said Burris, “contributed to the security guards’ belief that they could use deadly force whenever they saw fit.” 

Burris stated that, in essence, “Banko’s death is in the hands of Walgreens’ executives.”

As for Kingdom Group, Burris claims the company failed to monitor its employees’ mental states. Anthony revealed in a media interview that he was on “edge.” Burris contends that Kingdom Group acted irresponsibly in sending fatigued but highly armed guards to monitor its clients’ stores.

Anthony himself stated that he was acting in self-defense, fearing for his life as Brown, in the last moments of his own life, bent his body forward while backpedaling out of the store, allegedly spitting on the guard. 

“Defendant Anthony’s killing of the unarmed Mr. Brown shocks the conscience,” the civil complaint reads. “It was the rash, angry reaction of someone frustrated by the demands of his job, taking it out on Mr. Brown in the worst, most violent way possible. All defendants are subject to punitive damages.”

Update: 1 p.m. press conference

Today at 1 p.m., Banko Brown’s family attorney, John Burris, formally announced the filing of a lawsuit against Walgreens, Kingdom Group Protective Services and security guard Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony, who shot and killed unarmed, alleged shoplifter Banko Brown on April 27. He will be looking for $25 million — at minimum.

The suit was filed Thursday at 7 p.m. At today’s conference, Brown’s family, including mother Kevinisha Henderson, father Terry Brown, stepmother Barbara Brown, and several lawyers were seated at a long table facing reporters. The family declined to speak during the press conference, held at the offices of Burris, Nisenbaum, Curry and Lacy at 7677 Oakport St. in East Oakland.

Burris and his partner, Ben Nisenbaum, presented a frame-by-frame breakdown of the security camera footage that captured Brown’s April 27 killing by a Walgreens security guard, pointing to Brown and Anthony’s body language and physical reactions and contrasting it with District Attorney Brooke Jenkins’ official non-charging decision, released last Monday.

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Attorney John Burris confers with Banko Brown’s mother, Kevinisha Henderson. On the right, Barbara Brown, Banko’s stepmothers, consoles Terry, his father.

“This death case seems woefully unnecessary, because there was a choice that was made,” said Burris to reporters. “This wasn’t the heat of the moment.”

“[Anthony’s] aggressiveness, attacking Banko at the door, assaulting [him], punching [him]. But ultimately, [he] was let go. [Banko] got up and was going out the door. In that sense, the heat-of-the-moment issue was over.” 

“[Anthony’s] life was not in danger at the time.”

As he spoke, Barbara Brown rubbed Terry Brown’s back, shaking her head.

According to Nisenbaum, a majority of the cases represented by Burris’ firm, Burris, Nisenbaum, Curry and Lacy, have centered on police misconduct. Burris emphasized that though this case involves a security guard and not a police officer, there are parallels with how it’s been treated by the current San Francisco district attorney.

“Given the bias we’ve seen with the DA’s report, I tend to take it with a grain of salt,” said Burris. “The defense is not corroborated by the district attorney’s report.” 

The most striking part of the DA’s report, noted Burris, was that Anthony “said he was threatened with stabbing,” but no witness could corroborate the statement.

“A decision was made,” said Burris. “If I don’t like what you have to say, and if you said something to me, if you spit at me — none of that is imminent danger. This was not self-defense.”

But, in Burris’ mind, this is why Anthony’s employers bear the largest level of responsibility. 

“What do you think is gonna happen when you confront people for petty theft and the officers have guns?” he asked. “[Walgreens and Kingdom Group] put it in motion by hiring armed security guards.”

Burris pointed out that Walgreens subsequently terminating its contract with Kingdom showed that the store was was aware of the dangers of their policies.

Regarding Attorney General Rob Bonta’s letter, agreeing to review Jenkins’ handling of the case, Burris said he’s sure the DA’s office will cooperate with Bonta’s investigation, which is being conducted under the “abuse of discretion clause.” Which would mean, said Burris, “that the DA’s decision was made contrary to the evidence.”

man poster clock conference room

According to Nisenbaum, the next step is to serve the lawsuit to named parties. Within three to four months, there will be a court date that sets out the case schedule. 

“Then,” Nisenbaum said, “we do discovery — interrogations, subpoenas, requests from Kingdom and Walgreens for training and personal histories, and policies and policy directives.”

Brown’s family, said Burris, has made clear how loved and valued he was to so many. “Banko was not a lost soul,” said Burris. “He was loved.” 

“Deadly force should rarely ever be used in a petty theft situation. You have to weigh against the value of what you are protecting, versus the value of what you are about to take.”


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Reporter/Intern. Griffin Jones is a writer born and raised in San Francisco.

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  1. It’s tragic that the security guard wasn’t sufficiently trained to deescalate the situation, and charges should be brought.

    . However why is it that this family all of a sudden wants to be concerned. This victim was homeless and mentally disabled. The family didn’t care for this person before the Walgreens incident as is obvious from any parental neglect textbook and now they want money! If anything the family should know they should take care of and not neglect their children to grow up in these desperate ways where they need yo take snacks out of hungry desperation! Those parents should be charged.
    Yet Walgreens are yes liable and need to pay up and have more security guard training