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Blaming Boudin, SF DA Brooke Jenkins Wants to Dismiss Historic Case Against SFPD Officer Who Killed Keita O'Neil

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A woman in a dark suit speaks in a room with police officers.
San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins speaks during a news conference on Oct. 31, 2022, in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins wants to dismiss a historic first-ever case against a city police officer for shooting and killing a carjacking suspect unless California Attorney General Rob Bonta agrees to take it over.

In a letter to Bonta sent Wednesday, and obtained by KQED, Jenkins outlined an investigation into Boudin's handling of the case, and claims her ousted predecessor sought manslaughter charges against former officer Christopher Samayoa for "political reasons and not in the interests of justice."

"I cannot pursue this case out of political convenience. Given
the conflicts that have arisen, the evidentiary problems, and the complete lack of good faith surrounding the filing of this matter, we cannot ethically proceed with this prosecution," Jenkins wrote.

The Attorney General's Office told KQED, in a statement, "We can confirm that we've received the requests and we are reviewing them."

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Boudin's office charged Samayoa with multiple charges, including manslaughter, for shooting and killing 42-year-old Keita O'Neil after he allegedly stole a California Lottery van in 2017. Samayoa, a rookie cop on his fourth day on the force, shot through his vehicle window at O'Neil, killing him. O'Neil was unarmed.

But Boudin aimed to prosecute Samayoa as a means to force change in the culture of the San Francisco Police Department, Jenkins claims in the letter, citing statements made by attorneys in the District Attorney's Office who worked on the case.

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When speaking to another DA staffer, one assistant district attorney on the Samayoa case said he was "not looking for jail time, but rather 'to change the way SFPD does things or policy or procedures,'" Jenkins wrote to Bonta.

But to April Green, aunt of Keita O'Neil, and to her attorney, Brian Ford, Jenkins' letter to Bonta demonstrates something they've suspected all along — Jenkins put more resources into investigating Boudin than into prosecuting Samayoa.

They also asked Bonta to take over the case, in a letter sent at roughly the same time as Jenkins'.

"I think what's written in her letter confirms the conflict we're complaining about," Ford told KQED. "That she's more interested in investigating Chesa Boudin than pursuing a prosecution, and is mishandling the prosecution, against the officer who murdered [Green's] nephew."

In Ford's letter to Bonta, the attorney claimed Jenkins admitted to Ford that her office "may be conflicted" in its investigation.

And as for the statements made by assistant district attorneys about their reasons for pursuing a case, Ford wrote, "The opinions of the D.A. Inspectors are not 'evidence,' and they are not relevant, nor are they exculpatory," meaning they do not prove innocence.

Separate from the criminal case, O’Neil’s family settled a civil lawsuit against the city for $2.5 million. Boudin's charges against Samayoa include voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, assault by an executive officer, assault with a semi-automatic firearm and negligent discharge of a firearm.

Green and Jenkins have had a rocky relationship. Green campaigned against Boudin's recall as a show of gratitude for him taking up the case against the officer who killed her nephew. And when Jenkins took office, Green was quick to sound the alarm when she sensed — from meetings with Jenkins — that the case against Samayoa would be dismissed.

During those meetings, Ford wrote in his letter to Bonta, Jenkins and her staffer Darby Williams had no patience for Green.

"In almost every meeting Ms. Green has had with Ms. Jenkins and Ms. Williams, she is interrupted, spoken and shouted over, spoken down to, and lied to," Ford wrote.

Both letters to Bonta — from Jenkins and from Green — were dated Feb. 8, and were provided to KQED by Ford. Both letters also cite Assembly Bill 1506, which went into effect in July 2021, placing all incidents of an officer-involved shooting resulting in the death of an unarmed person within the purview of the California Department of Justice.

Green learned of Jenkins' decision to dismiss the case against the officer who killed her nephew Thursday, in a Zoom call with Jenkins.

Green said that, during the call, "I got tired of her running her lip."

"I told her, 'The God I serve is real. And I pray you're doing this spiritually. Because I'm going to fight you. And don't you ever forget it. And he's going to hold you accountable. Because all that blood from killing and murders you're justifying from police are going to be on your head,'" Green said.

The next hearing in the case against Samayoa is March 1.

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