Days after a man was shot and killed at a Downtown San Francisco Walgreens, the private security guard arrested on suspicion of murder in the case has been released from jail and the district attorney said she would not pursue a murder charge against the guard.
Security guard Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony, 33, was arrested and booked on suspicion of murder Friday for allegedly shooting and killing Banko Brown, 24, on Thursday evening. Police have said the incident involved shoplifting.
San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott told The Standard on Friday that investigators arrested the guard on suspicion of murder because of the way he allegedly used his weapon. “You have to use force appropriately within the law,” Scott said.
But District Attorney Brooke Jenkins said Monday evening her office would not be pursuing a murder charge.
"After careful review of all of the evidence gathered by the San Francisco Police Department in this case, my office will not be pursuing murder charges, at this time, in connection to the shooting," Jenkins said. "We reviewed witness statements, statements from the suspect, and video footage of the incident and it does not meet the People’s burden to be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury that the suspect is guilty of a crime. The evidence clearly shows that the suspect believed he was in mortal danger and acted in self-defense."
Anthony was on duty last Thursday when he saw Banko Brown shoplifting, said a source with knowledge of the case who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the details. Anthony questioned Brown, and an altercation ensued. Brown threatened to stab Anthony, who had pulled out his gun but had not yet pointed it, the source said.
Anthony told Brown to leave the store. According to the source, that is when Brown approached Anthony, who fired his gun.
The district attorney 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."
Anthony was released from San Francisco County Jail on Monday, the same day Brown was mourned in a gathering where his family and friends condemned the killing and called on the city to do more for transgender youth.
“We are beyond devastated by Banko’s passing. He was a smart and funny young man who, though shy, made friends easily,” said Julia Arroyo, an executive at the Young Women’s Freedom Center, where Brown volunteered. "He was resilient and tenacious and loved by our community."
Meanwhile, Walgreens and the security company that employed Anthony had little to say other than a brief statement by Walgreens.
“We are offering condolences to the victim's family during this difficult time. The safety of our patients, customers and team members is our top priority, and violence of any kind will not be tolerated in our stores. We take this matter seriously and are cooperating with local authorities,” Walgreens said in a statement.
On Monday afternoon, dozens of colleagues, family and friends gathered outside of the store to speak about Brown, what he had done in his life and what they called his unjustified killing.
Brown’s organizing work centered on advocating for the rights of youth in San Francisco, said Arroyo. That work involved outreach to young people cycled through the criminal justice system and included efforts to make sure minors are not charged as adults.
Brown, who a colleague said did not have stable housing, grew up in San Francisco and had been a youth participant at the Young Women’s Freedom Center since he was 12.
Xavier Davenport, who said he was a kind of mentor to Brown, said the slain organizer wanted to be a clothing designer. Despite Brown's precarious living situation, he often asked Davenport for money to help other youth who needed assistance.
“He was an activist but also a leader,” Davenport said.
A member of Brown’s family also spoke Friday, saying that no one deserves to die for stealing something from a store.
“We all have made mistakes. We all have made decisions that we are not proud of. But I know what [he] didn't determine [his] death,” said Barbara Brown. “It didn’t justify for [him] to be killed. If [he] was hungry, it didn’t justify for [him] to be murdered.”