SF DA Charges Officer With Manslaughter in 2017 On-Duty Shooting of Sean Moore

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A large stone building with a police car in front.
The Thomas J. Cahill Hall of Justice building in San Francisco.  (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin said Tuesday he is charging a city police officer with voluntary manslaughter and assault for shooting an unarmed Black man in the stomach in 2017, as the man stood on the doorstep of his Ocean View home.

The DA's office announced the charges against Officer Kenneth Cha for killing Sean Moore, who died three years later in San Quentin State Prison at the age of 46 from an intestinal obstruction caused by the shooting injuries, the DA said.

“We're announcing charges today because it took until today to complete our investigation and prepare an affidavit that was presented to a judge who only just signed the arrest warrant,” Boudin told KQED. He accused Cha and his partner of trespassing and said they had no grounds to arrest Moore.

A man’s headshot.
Sean Moore (Courtesy of Kenneth Blackmon)

“When we see a crime committed, a violent crime committed, it doesn't matter who the suspect is, we're going to investigate and we're going to take action to hold people who cause serious harm in our community accountable,” Boudin said.

Cha is the second officer that Boudin has pursued homicide charges against since he was elected two years ago. This case marks Boudin's fifth prosecution of law enforcement officers for the alleged use of excessive force.

Tuesday's charging announcement comes as Boudin faces a recall effort supported by defectors from his own office, amid fierce criticism from the city's police officers’ union.

A spokesperson for the DA’s office said prosecutors will not pursue charges against a second officer, Colin Patino, who hit Moore with a baton, because the statute of limitations had passed.

Tony Montoya, the president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, said in a statement that Cha and Patino were responding to a call for service when they contacted “the very hostile Sean Moore,” and that the union supports Cha’s “constitutionally protected right to present his defense against these charges.”

On the early morning of Jan. 6, 2017, Cha and Patino were responding to a noise complaint from Moore’s neighbor, who said Moore was harassing him in violation of a restraining order, according to prosecutors.

The subsequent volatile encounter, which unfolded over about 8 minutes and 30 seconds, was captured on the officers’ body cameras. In the video, Moore curses at the officers from behind a metal door grate, tells them he is taking out his garbage and orders them to leave.

Cha and Patino initially walk away from the door and down the stairs, but come back up again when Moore reappears, at which point Cha pepper-sprays him.

Moore briefly goes back inside before coming out a third time. He opens the metal grate and bends down, appearing to pick something up off the steps. When the officers try to detain him, Moore pulls away.

At that moment, Patino hits Moore twice with a baton, after which Moore punches him and kicks Cha. Cha fires twice, hitting Moore in the stomach and the groin.

Boudin on Tuesday pointed out that during a recent civil lawsuit brought by Moore’s family, five judges all agreed that Patino and Cha were acting outside of their authority when they went up Moore’s staircase the second and third times.

“It's essentially a question of, do we, as citizens, as residents of San Francisco, have the right to be safe and secure in our own home?” Boudin asked. “Do we have the right to tell police that they're not wanted and to leave our property? Or do we risk getting killed for doing so?”

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Moore had paranoid schizophrenia, according to the lawsuit, and the shooting has raised questions about the department’s handling of suspects exhibiting erratic behavior, and its implementation of a new policy requiring deescalation.

Both officers kept their jobs with the department following the incident.

In a statement released Tuesday evening, SF Police Chief Bill Scott said the charges against Cha "are now a matter for our judicial system to decide, and I would remind everyone that Officer Cha is presumed innocent unless proven guilty." He also said it has been a challenging time both personally and professionally for many officers.

Cha’s legal representative did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Civil rights lawyer Adante Pointer, who represented Moore’s mother in the civil lawsuit against the city, said his client is “overjoyed” that Cha is being criminally charged.

“She strongly feels that her son was killed because they failed to properly address and deal with his mental health condition,” he said. “So they turned his mental health condition into a death sentence, by the way, in which they antagonized her son and ultimately shot him in cold blood.”

The city agreed to settle the suit for $3.25 million in June. Moore was serving time in San Quentin State Prison on unrelated charges when he died last year.

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