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Exclusive: Security guard who killed Banko Brown at SF Walgreens speaks out

A memorial for Banko Brown is displayed on the sidewalk and along a chain-link fence outside the Walgreens at 825 Market St. in San Francisco on Thursday. Banko Brown was shot and killed by an armed Walgreens security guard on April 27, 2023, following an alleged shoplifting incident. | RJ Mickelson/The Standard

Banko Brown, 24, was unarmed when a security guard in Walgreens shot and killed him in Downtown San Francisco on April 27, according to Police Chief Bill Scott.

Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony, the drugstore’s 33-year-old security guard, was booked on suspicion of murder the next day. By Monday, the charges against Anthony had been dropped, with the District Attorney’s Office saying that “the suspect believed he was in mortal danger and acted in self-defense.” 

Speaking exclusively to The Standard on Thursday, Anthony said that he was “glad things are clearing up” but that the tragic event had left him shaken. 

“[I’m] still dealing with it, still don’t understand and don’t have the time to reflect,” Anthony said in the phone interview. “It’s not like I go through this many times. This is a very life-changing matter.” 

The details of how the fatal shooting unfolded remain murky—and Anthony declined to elaborate on the sequence of events. The police chief said that Anthony had been trying to stop Brown from shoplifting and that during the altercation that ensued, the victim allegedly spat on the security guard and raised his arm toward him, at which point Anthony shot him. 

At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Julia Arroyo of the Young Women’s Freedom Center said Banko Brown was not a dangerous or aggressive person.

The Standard previously reported that Brown threatened to stab Anthony, according to a source. 

In Thursday’s interview with The Standard, Anthony pointed to the frequent pressure that security guards are under during these types of confrontations. “This is important for more people to be more aware of,” he said. “It was happening too frequently.”

“It’s a lot to deal with. It’s a lot of pressure. A person can only take so much,” Anthony went on to say. “When you are limited to certain options, something will happen.”

On Monday, the day Anthony was released from jail, Brown’s family and friends condemned his killing. They said the death of Brown, who was Black and transgender, was a failure on the part of city leaders to keep members of those communities safe. They have called for Anthony, a Black man, to face charges.

Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin planned to ask his colleagues to pass a resolution urging Jenkins to reconsider filing charges, saying that he believed the case could be tried at least as manslaughter, if not murder.  

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. At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, 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, she said.

“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. “And still he brought people into the center.”

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.

It is not clear whether the family would seek to sue Walgreens, or the security firm that employed Anthony, or both. Anthony said guard work can be a lonely occupation.  

“Who has my back? Nobody?” he said. “You are left with no support. It’s a frightening feeling with a lot of people around you” who could potentially harm you, he added.