In First for SF, District Attorney Chesa Boudin Charges Former Police Officer With Homicide

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San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, pictured in 2019. (Stephanie Lister/KQED)

San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin announced Monday that he has filed homicide charges against former police officer Christopher Samayoa for the 2017 shooting of 42-year-old Keita O’Neil.

Boudin’s decision to charge the former SFPD officer marks the first time in the city’s history that a district attorney has brought homicide charges against an officer.

During a press conference Monday, Boudin announced five charges against Samayoa, including voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, assault by an executive officer, assault with a semi-automatic firearm and negligent discharge of a firearm.

“As far as we are aware, this is the first ever time that the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office has filed charges against a law enforcement officer for a homicide,” Boudin said at the press conference.

O’Neil, suspected of carjacking a California Lottery van in Potrero Hill, led police in a vehicle pursuit on the morning of Dec. 1, 2017 through the Bayview district. Hitting a dead-end in the Alice Griffith housing project, O’Neil fled the vehicle, running past the squad car that Samayoa was in.

Samayoa fired his weapon through the passenger side window, fatally striking O’Neil. O’Neil was unarmed.

“Body camera footage shows that not a single other officer pulled out their service weapon or pointed at Mr. O’Neil,” Boudin said Monday. “As a result of Officer Samayoa’s terrible, tragic and unlawful decision to pull and fire his gun that day, Mr. O’Neil was killed and my office is filing charges today.”

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Although Samayoa turned his body camera on just after the shooting, his camera captured the footage because body cameras automatically record 30 seconds before activation.

Samayoa had graduated from the police academy just days before the shooting, and was riding passenger with his training officer, Edric Talusan. Samayoa was fired in March 2018 as a result of the shooting.

Samayoa is expected to surrender to his arrest warrant later this week with a nominal bond set at $1,000, Boudin said.

"We do not expect him to be a flight risk. He has been at liberty the three years while this case was under investigation," Boudin said.

Civil rights attorney John Burris, whose office filed a federal civil rights lawsuit over the shooting in 2017, called it "one of the most shocking" incidents he'd ever seen at the time.

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Boudin’s historic filing comes just after a controversial dismissal of charges against two Alameda County sheriff's deputies for the infamous alley beating of a car chase suspect in 2016 in San Francisco.

The San Francisco Chronicle first reported that Boudin’s office quietly dismissed those charges in court in March, citing the impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on their case, suggesting they could refile those charges later on.

Boudin’s filings against Samayoa come just before the Dec. 1 expiration of the three-year statute of limitations for three of the alleged crimes: involuntary manslaughter, assault by an executive officer and negligent discharge of a firearm. Boudin highlighted these charges as a follow through on his 2019 campaign promise to enforce the law equally among police officers and citizens.

“It was a very obvious case of criminal activity of a police officer," said Melissa Nold, an attorney representing the O’Neil family in the federal civil rights case against Samayoa, training officer Edric Talusan and the city of San Francisco.

While the charges are encouraging, Nold told KQED on Monday that it won’t be a victory until a conviction is won in court.

“This is step one of a long process for the family, so there’s a long way to go,” Nold said.

San Francisco Police Officers Association President Tony Montoya issued a statement Monday regarding the charges against Samoyoa.

"The criminal justice system will allow for the facts surrounding this case to be disclosed," Montoya said in the statement. "We are committed to ensuring that Christopher and his family are supported during this difficult time and that he is accorded his due process rights and provided with a vigorous defense against these charges”

This post has been updated.