A poster with a photo of Banko Brown reads, 'Gone But Never Forgotten,' on a fence outside the Walgreens in downtown San Francisco where he was shot and killed by a store security guard on April 27. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)
San Francisco supervisors on Tuesday evening unanimously passed a resolution urging District Attorney Brooke Jenkins to release police reports, witness accounts and video footage related to the killing of Banko Brown, a 24-year-old Black transgender man who was shot and killed outside a Market Street Walgreens by a store security guard on April 27.
The Board of Supervisors voted on the nonbinding resolution that urges Jenkins and the San Francisco Police Department to release more information. City residents made impassioned pleas for the release of videos during public comment at the supervisors’ meeting, before the vote.
“Please, please insist this DA show the evidence. It’s time for her to stop rationalizing inappropriate behavior,” said Yulanda Williams, vice president of the San Francisco chapter of the NAACP. “I’ve been a police officer for 32 years. I’m now retired. I never would have thought to use my gun on someone stealing some type of merchandise out of a store.”
“Being hungry is not a crime. Being homeless is not a crime. Being Black is not a crime,” said Tory, a resident of San Francisco’s Western Addition neighborhood. “We want to see the tapes immediately. Release the tapes and justice for Banko Brown.”
Another public commenter referenced intense recent regional and national coverage of a different San Francisco killing, that of Cash App creator Bob Lee.
“I’m here for the same reason everyone else is here … Banko Brown’s case is just as important as the Cash App case,” said Jalen Clark, who added that his sister had worked with Brown. “My people are important … This is not just a situation here in San Francisco, this is all over the U.S. and we need to start somewhere. Why not right here, right now?”
Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin on Tuesday evening said the resolution to urge the release of evidence in the “beyond tragic” situation was one that united the city’s progressive and moderate factions. He also refuted allegations made by Jenkins that the resolution interferes with an active investigation.
Last week, Supervisor Shamann Walton wrote a letter of inquiry to Jenkins requesting that she reevaluate the case. Jenkins fired back in a letter to Walton on Monday saying his comments could disrupt the investigation and a fair judicial process.
“I disagree with the District Attorney’s opinions and have been informed by our Deputy City Attorney that my request has no interference with the investigation and it is not at all unethical,” wrote Walton. “Videos are released all the time during investigations and in some cases even required. We are asking for transparency around the killing of Banko Brown and release of this video will most certainly help with that transparency. I hope the district attorney will reconsider her decision.”
On Tuesday evening, Walton said supporters of Brown “still need to organize” to put pressure on the District Attorney’s Office and on Walgreens to release footage of Brown’s shooting.
“Somebody has to give us that video,” he said. “If there was evidence on that video that led to the assessment from the DA, everybody should have the opportunity to view that video.”
Brown, who is said to have been unhoused at the time of his death, died shortly after Anthony shot him. Peskin, who called for the case to be reopened, told the San Francisco Chronicle that Brown had allegedly stolen $14 worth of candy from the pharmacy before Anthony opened fire.
The killing has since sparked outrage from Brown’s family, Bay Area community members and advocates for the transgender community around the country. A memorial to Brown’s life now sits outside the Walgreens on Market Street.
The killing also has ignited debate over whether security guards should carry guns. Supervisor Dean Preston on Tuesday also announced legislation that would limit use of guns by security guards and using lethal force for shoplifting.
“We also need to take some action and make sure this never happens again,” the District 5 supervisor said in a video posted to social media on Tuesday. “Human life is more important than property.”
Jenkins said that releasing the information prematurely could “compromise” the investigation. She said the charging decision on May 1 was made to comply with a law that requires charges to be filed for suspects who are in custody within 72 hours.
“I hear and understand the concerns from people calling for transparency, but releasing any evidence before the investigation is complete could compromise the investigation and is unethical,” Jenkins said in a press release. “I have asked SFPD investigators to locate and interview additional witnesses and gather additional evidence. A final charging decision will be made when the investigation is complete.”
In her letter to Walton, Jenkins personally called out the supervisor for pointing out that Brown was Black, but not acknowledging that the Walgreens security guard is also Black. She stated how “many historic injustices that our community has faced can be traced back to politically motivated prosecutions.”
Meanwhile, other government officials and legal experts have pushed back on Jenkins’ decision not to release evidence in the case, as well as her earlier decision not to prosecute the security guard for shooting and killing someone over alleged shoplifting.
“In recent days, a steady stream of information has become public regarding the shooting death of Banko Brown, resulting in significant public doubt about the security guard’s claim of self-defense,” said state Sen. Scott Wiener. “This shooting has caused profound and growing concern in the community, particularly among Black and transgender San Franciscans. Transparency with the public is critical.”
“If the police camera videos are not released … we are going to be in a very dangerous situation here,” Supervisor Hillary Ronen said at the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday.
If the district attorney does not press any charges, Jenkins said, her office “will publicly release a comprehensive report that provides a full accounting of the evidence reviewed and how the decision was made because I understand the public’s need for a higher degree of transparency in this case.”
If charges are filed, she said, she would not directly release the information to the press, but rather it would be presented in an open courtroom during legal proceedings.
“It is my duty to follow the law and the evidence wherever it leads, and do everything in our power to advance justice and healing in our communities,” Jenkins said.
A vigil for Banko Brown at 825 Market Street is planned for Tuesday evening after the Board of Supervisors hearing.
KQED’s Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez and Christopher Alam contributed to this story.
This story has been updated.
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