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Families of Men Killed by Police Accuse DA of Playing Politics With Trial Delays

Written by Olivia Cruz MayedaPublished Oct. 21, 2022 • 3:30pm
Kenneth Blackmon holds a picture of his brother Sean Moore next to their mother Cleo Moore at a rally in San Francisco on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022. The rally is calling on District Attorney Brooke Jenkins to prosecute the police officers involved in the shootings of Keita O’Neil, Sean Moore and Luis Góngora Pat. | Benjamin Fanjoy/The Standard

More than five years have passed since San Francisco police officers shot and killed Keita O’Neil, Sean Moore and Luis Góngora Pat in separate incidents. While ousted District Attorney Chesa Boudin had filed charges in two of the cases and was preparing to do the same for the third, delays in action since Brooke Jenkins took office have left the families of each man suspicious that the new DA is prioritizing her political future over seeking justice.

After District Attorney Brooke Jenkins’ appointment in July, O’Neil and Moore’s hearings were continued to November. Góngora Pat’s family said the DA stopped responding to their requests for a further investigation and prosecution. On Thursday night, Jenkins left the stage of a DA election debate after activists interrupted the event to protest her delays in prosecuting officers who have killed civilians.

Earlier in the day, the families of all three men gathered in solidarity outside of the District Attorney’s Office to demand the officers responsible for O’Neil, Moore and Góngora Pat’s deaths be held accountable. 

“He was causing no harm the moment they killed him,” said Jose Góngora Pat, whose brother was killed in April 2016. He spoke to The Standard on Thursday via a Spanish language interpreter.

“I have him here,” he added, pinching his fingers over his heart. 

SFPD officers were responding to a call about a man holding a knife when they shot the unhoused Mayan immigrant 30 seconds after approaching him. Witnesses have disputed allegations that the man was wielding a knife when the officers shot him.

Kristin Hardy holds a sign at a rally on Thursday calling on District Attorney Brooke Jenkins to prosecute the police officers involved in the shootings of Keita O’Neil, Sean Moore and Luis Góngora Pat in San Francisco. | Benjamin Fanjoy/The Standard

ACLU Executive Director Abdi Soltani joined the families Thursday to demand action from Jenkins’ office.

“We have grave concerns about how this District Attorney's Office is treating these three families,” Soltani said. “And we are here to demand swift action to hold these officers accountable.”

Family members and advocates have expressed deep concern that Jenkins is deliberately delaying the officers’ trials until November for her own political gain. Jenkins is running against attorneys John Hamasaki, Joe Alioto Veronese and Maurice Chenier in the Nov. 8 election.

“To dismiss one of these filed cases prior to Nov. 8 would subject Jenkins to additional criticism that she doesn't not want to deal with right now,” said Rebecca Young, an attorney formerly in the DA’s Independent Investigations Bureau who is running for San Francisco public defender.

A spokesman for Jenkins said the District Attorney’s Office is in contact with each of the families and will keep them apprised of developments in each case. 

“We are declining further comment,” DA spokesperson Randy Quezada added, “due to the sensitive nature of these investigations.”

A crowd listens to April Green speak at a rally in San Francisco calling on DA Brooke Jenkins to prosecute the police officers involved in the shootings of Keita O’Neil, Sean Moore and Luis Góngora Pat. | Benjamin Fanjoy/The Standard

Young was working on Moore’s case and preparing to prosecute the officers who killed Góngora Pat when she was fired without explanation after Mayor London Breed appointed Jenkins to take over as DA.

“It feels as if there's no justice when there's an officer-involved shooting of some poor, Black or Brown man,” Young said.

SFPD Officer Kenneth Cha fatally shot Moore, who was at home and unarmed, in January 2017. Cha was responding to a call alleging that Moore was banging on a shared wall.

“This officer today—and since 2017—who murdered my nephew has walked freely around here with no accountability at all,” said April Green, an aunt to O’Neil. 

SFPD Officer Christopher Samayoa shot and killed O’Neil, another unarmed Black man, in December of that same year. After O’Neil allegedly stole a car, officers including Samayoa, pursued O’Neil. When O’Neil stopped and ran past the police car, Samayoa shot O’Neil through his own windshield.

Individuals hold signs at Thursday's rally calling on District Attorney Brooke Jenkins to prosecute the police officers involved in the shootings of Keita O’Neil, Sean Moore and Luis Góngora Pat. | Benjamin Fanjoy/The Standard

Moore’s mother, Cleo Moore, said she has little faith Jenkins will prosecute the officers, and she suspects Cha’s case will be thrown out.

“[Jenkins] fired every person that was making the case for my son,” Moore said. 

Young said the cases against the officers have become “political footballs,” adding that a motivating factor to delay the two cases and abandon another was the San Francisco Police Officers Association.

The POA and Samayoa and Cha’s attorneys did not respond to requests by phone and email for comment.

In September, Green’s attorney sent a letter to Jenkins with concerns that the DA’s Office was intentionally delaying prosecution until after the November election so Jenkins could avoid public accountability. 

“I really worry that if Jenkins wins this election, that officer is going to walk away with murdering my nephew,” Green said as police sirens wailed down the block. “There is no doubt in my mind.”

Emily Lee, director of racial justice advocacy group San Francisco Rising, organized Thursday’s rally. Lee said Jenkins owes the families an answer on what will happen to each of the cases.

“Don't just leave them in the dark,” Lee said. “They want to know: Are you going to prosecute these cops?”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include a comment from the District Attorney’s Office.

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