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San Francisco supervisors call for release of evidence in shooting of unarmed man

San Francisco's District Attorney Brooke Jenkins is under increasing pressure to release videos and other evidence in the shooting death of an unarmed Black transgender man.

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday in favor of a resolution calling for the city's district attorney to release police reports, witness accounts and videos pertaining to the April 27 killing of a Black transgender man by a drugstore security guard.

Security guard Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony, 33, shot and killed Banko Brown, 24, after what police described as a shoplifting incident in which Brown reportedly stole several dollars’ worth of candy from a downtown Walgreens. According to various reports, Anthony was still inside the store when Brown, standing outside the store, turned toward him, raised his arm, and spat on him before Anthony drew his gun. Brown was unarmed.

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 evidence clearly shows that the suspect believed he was in mortal danger and acted in self-defense,” District Attorney Brooke Jenkins said in a statement on May 1.

Calling the shooting a tragedy, she said, “We cannot bring forward charges when there is credible evidence of reasonable self-defense. Doing so would be unethical and create false hope for a successful prosecution.”

However, a week after making those statements Jenkins said in a written statement that the investigation was ongoing.

“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 wrote.

Given that the district attorney’s office was up against a deadline to make a charging decision before the 72-hour custody deadline lapsed, she was forced to let Anthony go in order to avoid violating due process, Jenkins continued.

After supervisors on Tuesday heard from a long line of speakers outraged by the district attorney’s refusal to release video of the incident, the 11-member board voted unanimously for a resolution calling for Jenkins to release evidence relating to the April 27 killing.

“It is Brooke Jenkins’ job to release the tape and provide as much transparency as possible,” said one woman, who then criticized Mayor London Breed for her absence due to a public relations trip to Israel. 

Many of the speakers who turned out to support the resolution were young adults who expressed anger towards the district attorney. One woman led the room in chanting “Justice for Banko Brown!”

“I am here today because I am disgusted that Walgreens, a national chain from Chicago, their property ... was worth more than a citizen of San Francisco,” said one young person who identified as nonbinary.

“You were fed up, so you just took all your anger out and said I’m gonna kill someone today,” said another person. “We don’t just need the tape. We need justice!”

Finding unanimity among the supervisors, once the more than two hours of public testimony was finished, proved almost effortless. In an amendment, the supervisors changed the word “murder” to “homicide." Supervisor Matt Dorsey also sought to add language underscoring that the body sought access to “publicly disposable” information. That caught Supervisor Hillary Ronin’s attention, prompting her to ask exactly what that meant.

“It seems to me that she can release them if she chooses to, and we have other ways that we can pursue this," Board President Aaron Peskin said.

"I mean, you heard — and I was quoted in the newspaper — that this board does have the power to subpoena things from third parties and maybe we’ll go that way," he added.

Dorsey agreed to drop the wording “publicly disposable” and the resolution passed unanimously.

Each of supervisors had expressed their outrage about the shooting; some were in tears as they gave their statements.

“I don’t see how anyone can sit here and not be moved by all of this,” said Supervisor Catherine Stefani through tears. “I know if it were my kids, I’d be losing my mind.”

Knowing the Board of Supervisors was expected to take up the matter of releasing evidence later that day, Jenkins’ office reissued her most recent statement on the matter, originally released Monday.

Arguing that viewing a single piece of evidence “alone in a vacuum” is irresponsible, Jenkins said she understood the public’s desire to see the evidence for themselves but doing so could compromise the investigation.

“If a final decision is made to not charge in this case, my 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," she said.

Categories / Civil Rights, Criminal

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