Police, Public Defender Clash Over Body-Camera Video of Officer-Involved Shooting

San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi and Deputy Public Defender Brian Pearlman release SFPD body-camera video on Jan. 18. The video captured the Jan. 6 police shooting of Sean Moore. (Alex Emslie/KQED)

San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi released video Wednesday of the Jan. 6 police shooting of Sean Moore captured on the involved officer's body-worn camera, followed within about an hour by the Police Department's screening of more body-camera video from the incident.

Moore, who survived and is reportedly in stable condition, is obviously agitated throughout his interactions with officers Kenneth Cha and Colin Patino. He's been diagnosed with schizophrenia, according to his family and the public defender's office.


The shooting represents the first test of access to SFPD body-camera videos in a serious incident, and is another in a long list of San Francisco police shootings involving mentally ill suspects.

Police Department leadership said last week that video from the incident would not be released because it's part of several active investigations. Adachi and Deputy Public Defender Brian Pearlman obtained it through discovery because the office is defending Moore against criminal charges stemming from the incident, including felony assault of a peace officer and resisting arrest. Pearlman said he's being held on $2 million bail.

"I was surprised when I heard the Police Department had elected not to release the body-camera video," Adachi said. "In these types of cases when you have a police shooting, it’s absolutely imperative for transparency and to inform the public as to what happened."

Interim SFPD Chief Toney Chaplin said about an hour later that the Police Department had "carefully considered the amount of public interest in the footage, and we made the decision this weekend to release the videos this week."

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"Ideally, we want to respect the integrity of the formal investigation and review process and allow it to conclude before releasing video," Chaplin said. "But every incident is different and we will evaluate the video release on a case-by-case basis."

The Shooting

Officers Cha and Patino responded to Moore's home in San Francisco's Ocean View neighborhood about 4 a.m. on Jan. 6 after receiving a call from a neighbor that Moore was banging on a shared wall, in violation of a restraining order. They attempted to speak with Moore, but he yelled profanity and repeatedly told them to leave his house.

The officers retreated to the bottom of the staircase outside Moore's home several times throughout the encounter. At one point Moore opened his front gate and Cha pepper-sprayed him, also hitting Patino. Moore appears to kick Cha in the head during that scuffle, according to the Police Department. When Moore again emerged from the house, Patino hit him with a baton as both officers moved in. Moore appears to punch Patino in the face and Cha fires twice, hitting Moore in the groin and abdomen.

Moore retreated back into his house and called 911 to report he'd been shot. He was barricaded in his home for over an hour before additional officers breached the home.

Editors note: The following video contains profanity and violence.

Disagreements Abound

While the Police Department and public defender's office appear to have reached the same conclusion on releasing the video, they strongly disagree on what it shows.

Adachi said the officers squandered opportunities to call more police with specialized training in calming suspects who may be in a psychiatric crisis -- members of SFPD's Crisis Intervention Team.

"Clearly, once the officers had gone back to the bottom of the stairs, that was a point, for example, when a Crisis Intervention Team could have and should have been called," Adachi said. "Instead the officers went back up the stairs and essentially escalated the situation."

Chaplin disagreed.

"The officers are taught to kind of try to play through it and work out and resolve it on their own," Chaplin said. "They talked this guy down. They did what they could to try to calm him down, they were doing the best they can to explain why they were there. We watched the same video. They explained over and over. To me they kept a neutral voice even in the face of ethnic and racial slurs and everything that came with it."

Photographs of SFPD officers Kenneth Cha and Colin Patino following their Jan. 6 encounter with Sean Moore as displayed at a Police Department press conference on Jan. 18.
Photographs of SFPD officers Kenneth Cha and Colin Patino following their Jan. 6 encounter with Sean Moore as displayed at a Police Department press conference on Jan. 18. (Alex Emslie/KQED)

He said the officers did not appear to know Moore or his psychiatric history, and they'd received training on de-escalation at the Police Academy, though they had not gone through more intensive, specialized training to become CIT members.

SFPD's recently enacted Crisis Intervention Team general order offers a third perspective (draft here):

When non-CIT officers are dispatched to or on-view a person in crisis incident, the non-CIT officer shall request a CIT officer, as soon as possible. If no CIT member is available in the district of the occurrence, officers shall have the DEM dispatcher broadcast a city-wide request for CIT members. Under no circumstance will the absence of a CIT member delay the assignment or response to a call regarding a person in crisis.

Adachi and Pearlman said it appeared the involved officers were allowed to view their own body-camera footage before giving statements to homicide and other investigators probing the shooting, which would directly violate the SFPD's recently enacted body-camera department general order.

The issue of whether officers involved in a shooting should be allowed a "pre-statement review" of video was hotly debated as SFPD moved to equip officers with body cameras last year. The final policy reflects the compromise:

Following any (1) officer-involved shooting; (2) in-custody death; or (3) criminal matter, any subject officer shall be required to provide an initial statement before he or she reviews any audio or video recording.

The initial statement by the subject officer shall briefly summarize the actions that the officer was engaged in, the actions that required the use of force, and the officer's response.

Deputy public defender Pearlman said video of the interview following the shooting shows Cha and Patino did not make that initial statement.

"They’re in the room and they sit them down and they say we’re going to take your statement, but let’s go watch the video first," Pearlman said. The public defender's office did not release the interview footage.

Chaplin said that account is false.

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"The officers involved provided a statement before they viewed the footage," he said, but declined to elaborate on what was discussed.

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