San Francisco Settles Suit Over Fatal Police Shooting of Man Who Cursed at Cops

Sean Moore died in prison in January 2020, but an autopsy found his death was partly caused by a gunshot wound to his abdomen that occurred three years earlier.

(AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

SAN FRANCICSCO (CN) — The city of San Francisco has reached a settlement in a lawsuit over the 2017 police shooting of an unarmed Black man who cursed at officers on his front porch less than two months before a civil rights trial was set to begin.

The lawsuit claims two police officers violated San Francisco resident Sean Moore’s free speech rights and failed to recognize he was suffering from a mental illness when they ignored his demands to get off his front steps, ordered him to come outside and used lethal force against him.

Moore died in prison last year while serving time for unrelated offenses. An autopsy found his death partly resulted from a gunshot wound to his abdomen. His parents replaced him as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

The settlement was announced in a notice filed with the court Tuesday morning requesting that the judge vacate trial dates in light of the tentative agreement. Jury selection had been scheduled to start June 21.

The dollar amount of the settlement has not been disclosed, but it will be made public when it comes before the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for a vote in the coming weeks.

The incident that sparked the lawsuit occurred on Jan. 6, 2017, when San Francisco police officers Kenneth Cha and Colin Patino showed up at Moore’s Oceanview neighborhood home at around 4 a.m. to investigate a report that he had violated a court order to stop harassing his neighbor.

Moore was accused of banging on a wall that separated his and his neighbor’s homes. When officers climbed a stairway and arrived at Moore’s front gate, Moore stepped on his porch behind an iron gate and told them to “get the fuck off my stairs.”

The officers went up and down the steps three separate times as the altercation escalated. They told Moore to come outside, and when he did, they deployed pepper spray and struck him with a baton. Moore responded by punching Patino, breaking his nose and kicking Cha down the steps before Cha took out his gun and shot the unarmed man twice in the stomach. The incident was captured by police body camera video.

In December, U.S. District Judge Susan Illston denied dueling motions for summary judgment in the case, finding that a jury should decide if the two officers were lawfully performing their duties when they assaulted Moore and if they are therefore entitled to qualified immunity.

Moore was charged with assaulting the two officers, but those charges were dropped after a First Appellate District panel ruled in 2018 that Cha and Patino were not lawfully performing their duties when they attacked Moore on his front porch.

In that decision, the court found the officers’ “refusal to leave Moore’s home when he repeatedly demanded that they do so” transformed their attempt at a “consensual encounter” to investigate a potential crime into an unlawful detention. Because they never witnessed Moore violate the restraining order, the officers had no probable cause to detain or arrest him, the court concluded.

The state appeals court also clarified that its finding does not mean all of the officers’ subsequent actions were unlawful if they were legitimately responding to illegal behavior or physical threats by Moore.

Moore’s lawsuit also accuses the officers of free speech retaliation, claiming they assaulted him because of his aggressive speech and curse words directed at officers. The suit additionally accuses police of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to recognize that Moore was suffering from a mental illness, schizophrenia, and adjust their tactics accordingly. The city has disputed those claims.

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s office and attorneys for Moore’s parents, Loyce Amos Moore and Celo Davis Moore, did not immediately return emails and phone calls requesting comment Tuesday.

The Moores are represented by Adante Pointer and Patrick Buelna.

After the 2017 police shooting, Moore was imprisoned in 2018 for assaulting two kids at a park with a hate crime enhancement. He received another three-year sentence in 2019 for making death threats by phone against a female civilian employee at San Francisco’s Taraval police station.

San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin’s office, which has filed charges against police officers in three separate cases, has yet to decide whether to prosecute Cha or Patino for their use of force against Moore.

Boudin’s office did not immediately respond to a request for information on the status of the Moore shooting probe, which is handled by its Independent Investigations Bureau.

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