Mourners gather inside the Third Baptist Church of San Francisco ahead of a memorial service for Banko Brown on May 25, 2023. (Kori Suzuki/KQED)
Updated 1:45 p.m. Thursday
Family and friends gathered inside the historic Third Baptist Church of San Francisco on a foggy Thursday morning to say their final goodbyes to Banko Brown.
Many of the nearly 100 guests dressed in red and white, with matching flowers at the front of the church spelling “Banko.” Some had “Long Live” and “Justice for Banko Brown” painted from shoulder to shoulder.
The room hummed with soft greetings and babies cooing as guests settled into pews.
Rev. Amos Brown, president of the San Francisco branch of the NAACP and pastor of Third Baptist Church, who is not related to Banko Brown, consoled the mourners.
“This is a sad day. The loss of Banko gives us pain, it gives us anguish,” he said. “We’ve always been focused on the good coming, the people who need good in their lives. This is a house of help.”
The service was interrupted as guests began shouting at each other. After a scripture reading, some of the people who identified as Brown’s parents had been acknowledged; apparently, others who had played a role in his life were upset about being omitted. Some guests had to be restrained from charging at others, and several were escorted outside as police officers walked down the aisle.
Brown’s stepmother, Barbara Brown, pleaded with the group to calm down. “You need to be respectful. We are in a church,” she said. “We are here for Banko Brown.”
After about 10 minutes, Rev. Brown resumed his speech, evoking the classic novel Lord of the Flies, saying it reflected the fighting that had just broken out.
“Those boys were on this airplane,” Brown said, referring to the book. “Unfortunately, the airplane crashed in the Pacific. And when the airplane crashed, only the boys survived. These otherwise dignified white boys become savages.”
“This is what America has done to you,” he continued, turning to the people in the pews. “You are somebody. You are made in the image of God, but America has defined you. … Banko’s death will not be in vain.”
On April 27, Walgreens security guard Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony shot and killed Brown after Brown allegedly attempted to shoplift from the store’s Market Street location.
Brown, a 24-year-old transgender Black man, was unarmed.
On May 1, San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins announced she would not file charges against Anthony. City leaders and members of the public called for Jenkins to release the store’s surveillance footage, which she did on May 15.
The six-minute video shows Anthony confronting Brown as he attempts to exit the store. The two scuffle before Anthony wrestles Brown to the ground. After Anthony lets Brown stand up, Brown grabs his bag and turns to leave. As Brown is on the store’s threshold, he turns around and gestures toward Anthony. Brown is moving backward when he’s shot by Anthony, who fires only once. A passerby attempts to revive Brown.
Anthony told investigators that Brown “repeatedly threatened to stab him,” according to the 25-page report released by Jenkins, who said she didn’t believe she could prove a case against Anthony beyond a reasonable doubt. Police did not recover a knife from Brown’s bag or the scene. Hundreds marched on Market Street to protest Jenkins’ decision.
John Burris, a civil rights attorney representing Brown’s family, plans to file lawsuits against Walgreens and Kingdom Group Protective Services, the security company that employed Anthony. Walgreens has since cut ties with KGPS.
Former San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim, who attended the funeral, welcomed Bonta’s review.
“There are so many questions in the community, and it’s important there is a process and as many eyes on this investigation so that it moves forward in the right way,” she said.
Kim also questioned the training of armed security guards.
“What we saw with the Walgreens incident is that [security guards] usually get less than a day of training before they are given guns,” she said. “That’s a big responsibility to carry. That, to me, feels like the question that needs to be answered.”
Family members continued crying after the service. Some shared memories of Brown, who had a distinct style and loved shoes.
“My grandmother raised a lot of us. We used to cook together,” said De’von Hamilton, Brown’s cousin. “Thanksgiving dinners, [Banko] would help with the greens. I would help with the turkey and we would season together.”
Another cousin, Harrishiana Lee, believes the family will get justice for Brown’s death.
“My cousin didn’t deserve to go out like this. His mom is going to get justice for her baby,” Lee said. “It’s not fair, he’s been through a lot as it is. For him to overcome everything he’s been through only to be gunned down — he don’t deserve that.”
Malcolm Smeed, Brown’s brother and one of the pallbearers at the funeral, remembered how creative and artistic Brown was, pointing to some of the airbrushed artwork on the jackets of mourners that was in honor of Brown.
Jackie Louis, Brown’s sister, simply said, “The world did not deserve Banko.”
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