SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — After having seen the video depicting the shooting of an unarmed Black transgender man by a drugstore security guard, the president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors called the incident a civil rights violation and said he would seek investigations by top state and federal authorities.
Following increasingly vocal calls from the public to release video footage as well as documentation related to the shooting of 24-year-old Banko Brown on April 27, the San Francisco District Attorney’s office did so Monday. Some city leaders, however, don’t feel what's seen in the video supports District Attorney Brooke Jenkins’ contention that there isn’t enough evidence to file criminal charges against the man who shot him.
Security guard Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony, 33, shot and killed Brown after what police described as a shoplifting incident in which Brown reportedly stole several dollars’ worth of candy from a downtown Walgreens. Anthony was still inside the store at the entry when Brown, standing immediately outside the store and facing the security guard, pitched briefly forward with one hand empty, and with a shopping bag in the other, and Anthony quickly shot him. Reports say that Brown had spat on Anthony.
San Francisco police booked Anthony on suspicion of murder the day after the shooting, but he was released after prosecutors declined to charge him.
The video from a Walgreens security camera shows “Brown walking into Walgreens, collecting items from two different shelves and then walking towards the rear of the store. While walking down an aisle, Brown grabs a bag from a shelf, placing it into the bag that Brown carried with him when he entered the store. Anthony and Brown do not have any contact with one another until Brown moves to exit the store without having paid for any items,” according to the district attorney’s description of the video.
Afterward, Brown moved toward the exit. Anthony stretched his hand out toward Brown as if he were asking something and Brown walked toward the security guard. Shortly afterward, the two men began to scuffle and Brown continued to resist.
“Anthony then gets behind Brown and appears to be holding Brown while Brown appears to continue to fight back,” the DA’s report states. “This lasts for about 15 to 20 seconds.”
The two men fall to the ground, and in the video Anthony can be seen lying on top of Brown, who is facedown on the floor. Brown continued to resist as they remained in that position a few moments more.
According to police, one witness viewed Anthony holding onto Brown.
“Witness 1 stated that Brown was ‘cussing out’ Anthony and stated, ‘Let me go and I'll fight you one on one.’ Witness 1 stated Anthony said, ‘I'll let go of you if you calm the fuck down.’ Witness 1 stated that Brown appeared to calm down after Anthony stated this, and Anthony subsequently let go of Brown.” It was only seconds later before Brown and Anthony had their fateful last encounter at the store entrance.
“Witness 1 stated she saw Brown spit at Anthony and ‘squared up’ on Anthony, assumed a fighting stance, and looked like Brown was about to ‘get at the guard’ (Anthony). Witness 1 stated it looked like Brown ‘wanted to fight more.’ Witness 1 stated she saw Anthony draw a gun from a holster on his person. Witness 1 heard Anthony state, ‘Won't do it, step back.’ Witness 1 then heard a gunshot.”
Another witness told police “that the spit, flinch, and shot all seemed to happen at the same time.”
Brown fell backward onto the sidewalk. He was later taken to a local hospital where he died from his wounds.
Anthony told police Brown had threatened to stab him. No weapons were found on Brown.
Following the release of the materials Monday morning, Jenkins reiterated her decision not to file criminal charges against Anthony. “After careful review of all of the evidence gathered by the San Francisco Police Department and my office in this case, we will not be pursuing murder charges in connection to the shooting of Banko Brown," she said in an emailed statement.
“After the case’s initial discharge on May 1, 2023, we sought additional evidence to refute the suspect’s claims of reasonable self-defense and to date have not found any evidence that did so,” she continued. “Without evidence to refute the suspect’s reasonable self-defense claim in court, we cannot ethically meet our burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury that a crime was committed.”
Jenkins said her decision came from a desire “to be fully transparent with the public about my decision in this case.”
The DA had initially refused to release the tapes, stating that doing so would undermine the investigation. “I hear and understand the concerns from people calling for transparency, but releasing evidence before the investigation is complete could compromise the investigation and is unethical," Jenkins said at the time. However, at a meeting of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on May 9, board members passed a unanimous resolution calling on Jenkins to release the material.
Jenkins’ decision to do so Monday morning came as a surprise to Board President Aaron Peskin, who called the incident a civil rights violation. Peskin said “it was incumbent upon” him to ask his 10 fellow supervisors to pass a resolution at the board's meeting Tuesday, calling for an investigation of the incident by the California Attorney General’s office and the U.S. Department of Justice.
“The United States of America has investigated other civil rights violations,” he said. “I don’t see how anyone can look at that video and come to another other conclusion.”
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