upper waypoint

Judge Dismisses Case for San Francisco Police Officer Who Shot and Killed Keita O'Neil

Save ArticleSave Article
Failed to save article

Please try again

A woman wearing grey suit talks to reporters in the hallway of a courthouse with two men standing on either side of her.
Brian Ford (left) and April Green (center) criticize Attorney General Rob Bonta's rationale for declining to charge former San Francisco police officer Christopher Samayoa for shooting and killing Green's nephew, Keita O'Neil, in a police chase in 2017. Photo taken May 19, 2023. (Sydney Johnson/KQED)

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Loretta Giorgi officially dismissed charges against San Francisco police officer Christopher Samayoa, who shot and killed carjacking suspect Keita O’Neil during a chase in the city’s Bayview neighborhood in 2017.

The case, initially brought on by former District Attorney Chesa Boudin, was the first homicide prosecution of a police officer for an on-duty killing in San Francisco history. District Attorney Brooke Jenkins earlier this year moved to dismiss the case brought on by her predecessor.

The judge’s decision came after California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced Thursday that he will not prosecute the former officer. In a letter to District Attorney Brooke Jenkins on May 18, Bonta asserted the charges against Samayoa “cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Family, friends and community members expressed outrage over the decision on Friday.

“I feel powerless. I am really worried about the rest of our Black and brown men who live in the Bayview area because this is a license to kill,” said April Green, O’Neil’s aunt, on Friday outside the courtroom where her nephew’s case was dismissed. “He’s given an okay now for officers to have excuses and justify murdering our Black and brown men.”

Related Stories

Green and her attorney, Brian Ford, said they are next seeking to have evidence from the case released.

Green, who is currently undergoing treatment for cancer, was locking arms with fellow advocates for police accountability on Friday at the Hall of Justice. She compared her nephew’s killing and subsequent case dismissal to other recent cases in which security or law enforcement have killed unarmed Black men in San Francisco.

Jenkins has said she will not prosecute the officer who shot Sean Moore, who died of his injuries three years after an officer shot him in 2017, or the Walgreens security guard who shot and killed 24-year-old Banko Brown earlier this year.

“I feel for the Banko [Brown] family, I feel for the Sean Moore family. Because [Bonta] is not going to do anything for them,” Green said. “He’s not going to give them a chance. He’s going to allow Brooke Jenkins to dismiss these cases without a justification.”

Samayoa was in his fourth day of a field training program when he fired his weapon through the window of his patrol car and hit O’Neil, a 42-year-old Black man, as he tried to escape on foot, police camera footage shows.

Samayoa was subsequently fired. Separate from the now-dismissed criminal case, the city of San Francisco in 2021 paid O’Neil’s family $2.5 million to settle a civil lawsuit.

Nearly three years after the incident, Chesa Boudin, Jenkins’ predecessor who was recalled from office last summer, charged Samayoa with multiple counts of manslaughter and assault, marking the first homicide prosecution in San Francisco history against a police officer for an on-duty killing.

In a Feb. 8 letter to Bonta, Jenkins argued that Boudin wrongly pursued manslaughter charges against Samayoa for “political reasons and not in the interest of justice.” She said her office had also “discovered an internal conflict in the case that impacts our ability to handle the matter,” referring to opposing statements from the attorney in Boudin’s office who initially handled the case and the DA investigator who signed the arrest warrant.

Green and Ford then requested that the state’s top prosecutor pick up the case. When stepping into his current position back in 2021, shortly after nationwide protests over the police killing of George Floyd, Bonta proclaimed he would do more than his predecessors to hold law enforcement accountable for officer misconduct.

Bonta “manipulated the Californian people to vote for him on the plate form of holding police accountable for these unjustly murders that plagues our folks,” said April Green. “We need a California Attorney General who stands by their legislation, which Bonta does not.”

Sponsored

In his letter to Jenkins, Bonta outlined testimony from SF District Attorney Investigator Jack Lundberg, who was the lead investigator in the O’Neil shooting. The letter claims Lundberg saw a simulation training video in which Samayoa, driving a patrol car, pulled over a van with expired plates. The occupants of the van then got out and charged at the patrol car as the driver pulled out a non-lethal gun and shot paintballs at Samayoa’s head. The training happened 21 days before Samayoa shot and killed O’Neil.

“An officer’s training is legally relevant to assessing his reactions in the actual case. In this case, Officer Samayoa’s very recent training demonstrated that a failure to act when a suspect jumps from a van and runs towards the officer can result in deadly consequences for the officer,” Bonta’s letter reads. “This supports the reasonableness of the officer’s belief that it was necessary to shoot Mr. O’Neil in self-defense.”

Ford continues to dispute the assertion that the move was an act of self-defense.

“It amounts to a concocted defense, a misstatement of the standards of self-defense and cherry picks the facts,” Ford told reporters on Friday. “The fact is that our justice system, jury trials, preliminary hearings, are a fact-finding process. And the victims’ families are entitled to their day in court. They’re entitled to see the evidence, see the light to a jury of their peers, to look at the evidence and to assess the law and hold the facts up against the law to see what is there. And Rob Bonta has refused to do that. He instead takes the same cowardly approach that Brooke Jenkins did.”

lower waypoint
next waypoint
UC Academic Workers’ Strike is Limited to Santa Cruz So Far. Here’s WhyPollster Sounding the Alarm About RFK Jr.'s Presidential CampaignAll You Can Eat: Yes, the Bay Area Does Have a Late Night Dining SceneHere’s Why KQED Is Latest Public Media Outlet to Face LayoffsCarnaval San Francisco 2024: From the Parade Route to Parking, Here's What to Know‘My Octopus Teacher’ Filmmaker on Connecting to Our Wild SelvesCalifornia Forever Hands Out $500K to Solano Nonprofits Ahead of November ElectionFire Burns Home of SF Dog Walker Targeted by Racist ThreatsState Supreme Court to Decide Fate of Prop. 22 … and the Gig EconomyAfter 58 Years, CCSF Music Chair Closer Than Ever to Realizing Her Dream