San Francisco police cleared up some of the details surrounding the deadly shooting of a suspected shoplifter by a security guard outside a Walgreens in a case that spurred widespread outrage.
Banko Brown, 24, was unarmed when the security guard shot and killed him outside the drugstore near Market and Fourth streets last Thursday, Police Chief Bill Scott told the Police Commission on Wednesday.
An altercation broke out when the security guard, Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony, tried to stop Brown for shoplifting, the chief said. Anthony, 33, was still inside the store when Brown stepped outside and turned toward him. Brown then allegedly spit on the security guard and raised his arm toward him before Anthony drew his gun and fired, Scott said.
The shooting and subsequent decision by District Attorney Brooke Jenkins not to charge Anthony with murder sparked outcry from Brown’s supporters, who said Brown did not deserve to die for allegedly shoplifting. They viewed the killing of Brown, who was Black and transgender, as an extension of the challenges facing those communities in San Francisco.
Prominent Bay Area civil rights attorney John Burris said Brown’s family has hired him to represent them and potentially file a lawsuit over the killing. Burris said the shooting appeared to be wrongful and unlawful because Brown was unarmed and was not threatening.
“We are working to try to get as much information as we can,” Burris said.
Brown was a volunteer organizer at a nonprofit called the Young Women’s Freedom Center, which advocates for transgender youth and young women.
Julia Arroyo, the co-executive director of the center, described Brown as a generous person who put the needs of others over his own. Arroyo said Brown was not a dangerous or aggressive person. He worked and went to school but still struggled to make ends meet and live in San Francisco.
“His last week of his life he said […] ‘I’m tired; I’m sleeping outside. I’m tired; I’m not myself right now,’” Arroyo said at a Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday. “And still he brought people into the center.”
The shooting is also putting police at odds with prosecutors.
While police booked Anthony on suspicion of murder last Friday, prosecutors soon after declined to charge him, and he was released.
Scott told The Standard last Friday that his department decided to arrest Anthony on suspicion of murder because security guards “have to use force appropriately within the law,” even if they have a firearms license.
“If that’s not the case, regardless of whether you are a security guard or police officer or not, you are subject to that,” Scott said.
However, Jenkins said Monday that she would not be able to prove a murder case against Anthony to a jury based on witness statements, statements from Anthony and video footage of the incident.
“The evidence clearly shows that the suspect believed he was in mortal danger and acted in self-defense,” Jenkins said in a statement.
The Standard previously reported via an anonymous source that Brown allegedly threatened to stab Anthony.
Jenkins is under political pressure to reverse her decision. Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin said he would ask his colleagues to pass legislation urging Jenkins to reconsider filing charges, saying that he believed the case could be tried at least as manslaughter if not murder.
Scott said homicide investigators will continue to probe the shooting, including by looking further into Anthony’s background.
It’s still possible for prosecutors to file a case against him.
Michael Barba can be reached at email@example.com