District Attorney Brooke Jenkins will dismiss San Francisco’s last police shooting case, filed by her predecessor and one-time campaign rival Chesa Boudin, for the killing of Sean Moore by Officer Kenneth Cha. It is the third and final police shooting case brought by Boudin only to be dropped by Jenkins.
Kenneth Blackmon, Moore’s brother, said Sunday evening that he was informed by the lead prosecutor on the case, Assistant District Attorney Darby Williams, that the DA’s office would drop the charges against Cha.
“I was sitting at home on Friday, and I get a phone call,” said Blackmon, saying Williams was on the phone asking to speak to him and his mother.
The prosecutor then told him, “‘I just want to inform you that I filed a motion to dismiss the case today.’”
“I was like, ‘What?’” Blackmon said, adding that he felt “angry” about the decision, and quickly ended the call. “I just said, ‘I want to end this conversation right now, because this is totally wack.’”
“I’m very angry, I’m beyond angry,” he added. “I’m in disbelief, to be honest with you.”
Williams did not give Blackmon a reason for the dismissal, except to say that it was related to actions by a “former prosecutor.”
Jenkins, in a statement, said her office could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Cha acted unlawfully. She pointed to a draft memo declining to press charges against Cha written by then-District Attorney George Gascón’s office, and said that Moore’s subsequent death “did not change the analysis” by Gascón’s office.
Jenkins said that Gascón “declined to charge this case.” While it is true that Gascón did not file charges, he did not decline to do so in the future: Rather, Gascón explicitly left the decision to his successor, Boudin; the District Attorney’s Office then wrote a letter to a state judge asking for more time to weigh whether to bring a criminal suit.
The memo cited by Jenkins remained an unpublished internal draft, her statement noted.
Boudin brought a homicide suit in 2021. In her statement, Jenkins pointed to Boudin’s election as the only changed circumstance in the case.
“No new evidence has come to light that could change the analysis that was done by multiple attorneys,” the statement read. “The only identifiable change was a change in administration and personnel.”
On Thursday, only one day before the call with Moore’s brother, Assistant District Attorney Williams stood in court and scheduled a preliminary hearing, the first significant movement in the case after months of delays.
Blackmon said he was livid that Williams apparently knew of the pending dismissal but went through the motions of scheduling the hearing anyways. She did not tell Blackmon or the court about any notion of dropping the case on Thursday.
“What was yesterday all about, then?” Blackmon said he asked Williams. “That’s ridiculous, man. What changed?”
Moore, an unarmed Black man, was shot on the front steps of his Oceanside home in 2017 after telling two officers, repeatedly, to leave.
The officers, Colin Patino and Cha, were responding to a noise complaint. In the seconds before the predawn shooting, Patino swung a baton at Moore, twice, and Moore pushed him down the stairs. Cha then fired two shots, striking Moore in the abdomen and leg.
Moore died three years later as a result of his abdominal wound. He was 46.
The homicide charge was the last still-standing criminal case against a San Francisco police officer. No district attorney in modern San Francisco history has successfully held a police officer criminally liable for on-duty use-of-force.
Before Boudin, no city DA had ever charged a police officer with homicide.
In dismissing San Francisco’s two prior police shooting cases, Jenkins has relied heavily on contrasting her approach to that of Boudin’s.
She has written relatively few words analyzing the circumstances of the shootings themselves in her public pronouncements on each case. Instead, she has questioned the decision to file charges against the officers, writing that the Boudin administration prosecuted for “political reasons” or “political gain.”
Legal experts have challenged her reasoning in both prior instances, saying Jenkins’ arguments for dropping those cases do not bear on the material facts of the shootings, nor do they answer whether officers were justified in their actions.
“The pattern suggests that Brooke Jenkins doesn’t have much of an appetite for prosecuting police,” said Professor George Bisharat of the University of California College of the Law, San Francisco, speaking before news of Moore’s dismissal.
Bisharat, a former trial attorney, has criticized Jenkins in the past for her dismissal of the charges against the officer who shot fleeing carjacking suspect Keita O’Neil. “It indicates to the police that they don’t have to worry about prosecutions, or at least don’t have to worry as much.”
Added Adante Pointer, a civil rights attorney who led the civil suit on behalf of Moore’s family against San Francisco and won $3.25 million, also speaking earlier: “Essentially, you can misbehave, you can kill people, you can shoot people, it can be on video, and nothing will happen to you. It gives a green light for officers to misbehave.”
Rebecca Young, the Moore family’s lawyer, said she was calling for California Attorney General Rob Bonta to take over prosecution of the Cha case. Bonta considered doing so for O’Neil, but in May declined to prosecute that case.
“This DA’s office is too compromised to do anything regarding prosecuting the police,” Young said.
Blackmon, for his part, said that the family would consider all legal options. He added that his mother, Cleo Moore, who is in poor health, is “at the point that she just wants to go on with her life.”
“It’s hard on her, I know it is,” Blackmon said. “I know one thing, this is definitely a miscarriage of justice.”