The San Francisco district attorney’s office today released video of the Banko Brown shooting, revealing that Brown was shot and killed by Walgreens security guard Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony as Brown was retreating from the store.
District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, who had earlier stated that evidence “clearly” showed Anthony acting in self-defense, today formally confirmed that her office will not be bringing charges.
Prior to the shooting, the video shows a struggle between Anthony, 33, and Brown, 24, in which Anthony repeatedly batters the much smaller alleged shoplifter, striking him with a fist, placing him in a headlock, and pinning him to the ground.
After Anthony releases Brown from the ground, Brown grabs his bag of allegedly shoplifted goods and walks backwards to leave the store, raising his arm at Anthony two seconds before the shooting. As Brown moves backwards, possibly spitting at the guard, Anthony fires.
Anthony is 6 feet tall, per a police report; Brown, his family said, stood 5-foot-4.
Anthony, according to a 25-page report released by Jenkins on Monday, said that Brown had repeatedly threatened to stab him during the altercation. Witnesses could not corroborate those statements, according to the report.
He was, according to the report, instructed to “actively work to retrieve or recover any stolen items” by Kingdom Protective Services Group, his employer and the security firm hired by Walgreens to guard against shoplifting in the store.
The video has been the cornerstone of Jenkins’ decision not to press charges against Anthony, who was initially arrested on suspicion of murder for the Thursday, April 27, shooting but released on May 1. The DA, on May 1, said Anthony was in “mortal fear.”
Board President Aaron Peskin introduced legislation earlier this month calling for a release of this video and other evidence, a move that all 10 of his colleagues voted to support.
After viewing today’s video, he said that, on Tuesday, he will introduce legislation calling for the California attorney general or the U.S. Department of Justice to review the evidence in this case.
“Don’t get me wrong, I understand that plenty of folks are afraid of crime — which is being stoked by a certain segment in this city, including politicians and their allies. But I think this sends a terrible message of impunity,” Peskin said. “The world we live in is about time and distance and de-escalation, and none of that happens here. Banko Brown heads for the door, he is outside, he is backing up when he is shot.”
“I mean,” continues Peskin, “this is not who we are. Stealing a bag of candy doesn’t warrant death.”
The district attorney, in her report, said “there is insufficient evidence to support the filing of criminal charges against Anthony” as the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Anthony did not act “in the need for self-defense or the defense of others.”
“So they’re just going off [Anthony’s] word against my [son’s] like that?” asked Terry Brown, Banko Brown’s father, outraged by the news. He had not yet reviewed the footage, and said he did not want to watch it. Brown’s stepmother, Barbara Brown, also said she had no desire to watch the video.
Jenkins “wants to ruffle people’s feathers. She knows Banko was out the store. They had an altercation,” said Terry Brown. “You already beat [his] ass — and then he’s out the store — he’s no threat to him. And that’s self-defense? This makes no sense.”
“She’s just letting him go? This is not self-defense,” Brown continued, his voice catching in his throat. “Banko don’t got no weapon, you just beat the fuck out of [him], then kill [him]? You just did some shit in the moment and got away with it.”
Terry Brown said the family is still planning its next steps with their attorney, John Burris, and will be at tomorrow’s Board of Supervisors meeting demanding that Attorney General Rob Bonta take up the prosecution.
Video shows Banko Brown backing out of store
The video, taken from a ceiling-mounted security camera, shows Brown attempting to exit the store with a bag of allegedly stolen goods and pushing himself against Anthony, who is blocking the exit. Anthony then pushes Brown away and strikes him with his fist, continuing to strike him until Brown is on the ground.
Brown seemingly makes an attempt to grab his bag before Anthony takes him by the neck and puts him in a headlock. Anthony then slams Brown to the ground, holding him there for another 20 seconds before seemingly releasing him.
Brown crawls away from Anthony and, in the seconds before the shooting, goes to retrieve his bag. He walks backwards away from Anthony, exiting the Walgreens. Brown has his arm outstretched pointing at the guard, who is following after him with his gun drawn, but pointed downwards.
One second before the shooting, Brown partly raises his fist to Anthony as he continues to back out of the store. As he is putting his arm down, and apparently spitting, Anthony then raises his gun and fires.
The district attorney’s report says that Brown lunged at Anthony in the moment before the shooting. The video shows no such lunge.
“I watched this video twice and I looked everywhere for self-defense,” said retired Santa Clara Superior Court Judge LaDoris Hazzard Cordell, who viewed the footage at Mission Local’s behest. “All I saw was a security guard in complete control of the suspect, who had him down on the ground and was sitting on him until such time the suspect grabbed his bag, ran out, and gets killed. I couldn’t find self-defense anywhere.”
Added Tony Brass, a former prosecutor at the DA’s office, federal prosecutor and now a practicing criminal defense lawyer: “It looks like the security guard certainly was able to handle the physical confrontation pretty handily before there was any gunfire. It’s hard for me to understand why there was any gunfire when the person was exiting the Walgreens.”
Burris, upon reviewing the footage, said that there was “no justification for shooting this young man. What you have here is the security guard being the aggressor, grabbing [Brown], tossing him around like he’s a rag. When the kid finally got loose, he’s running by him, and accosted again. In that process, he was shot. That level of force should not have been contemplated.”
Affirming Mission Local’s reporting, Burris said that Jenkins had already “destroyed her own prosecution by making the comments she’s made.” But, he concluded, “the Attorney General could get involved. We’re sending a lot of cases to the AG these days — that’s a result of local DAs stuck in the old tradition of giving the police a pass. This is not quite a police case, but it’s consistent with how those are treated.”
Eyewitness Donald Washington, Jr., who earlier gave his account of the shooting to Mission Local, is visible in the footage. While some elements of Washington’s story are affirmed by the footage, others are not. Specifically, Washington’s recollection that Anthony ejected Brown from the store, returned inside, and then went back outside before shooting Brown is contrasted by the footage released today.
The shooting has prompted two weeks of protests and repeated calls — from the family and supporters of Brown, the entire Board of Supervisors, and state Sen. Scott Wiener — for the DA to release video of the incident.
Supervisor Dean Preston introduced a resolution at last Tuesday’s Board meeting to amend a city code that states armed guards can draw their guns to protect property.