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Politics & Policy

San Francisco lawmakers demand release of Walgreens killing video

A memorial is set up for Banko Brown outside the Downtown Walgreens where he was shot and killed by a security guard. | Morgan Ellis/The Standard

San Francisco Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously passed a resolution sponsored by Board President Aaron Peskin urging both the District Attorney’s Office and the police department to release video and other evidence pertaining to the April 27 fatal shooting of activist Banko Brown at a Walgreens.

The Board also heard an update on efforts to get Laguna Honda Hospital back on track that revealed some new concerns about its future behavioral health needs.

After Semantic Debate, Supes Demand Transparency from DA

District Attorney Brooke Jenkins speaks at a press conference at San Francisco police headquarters on April 13, 2023. | Morgan Ellis/The Standard

The vote on the Brown shooting resolution came after discussion by supervisors, who all offered condolences to the family and friends of Brown and then spent close to an hour debating new amendments that were offered in compromise, “so that the board could speak with one voice,” according to Peskin. 

In addition to adding the police to the resolution and changing language referring to the suspect in the case from “murder suspect” to “homicide suspect,” the supervisors debated an amendment would have qualified the request to release the information “when publicly disclosable.” 

Supervisor Matt Dorsey, who suggested the amendment, wanted to “set public expectations” over some aspects of information in the case that might not be disclosable by law. 

Meanwhile, Supervisor Hillary Ronen argued that the amendment would give District Attorney Brooke Jenkins “an out” on releasing video of the incident and other evidence that is legally disclosable at Jenkins’ discretion. 

“I don’t know why we would give [Jenkins] an out when we are all on the same page,” Ronen said during the debate. Dorsey relented, and the resolution passed with the other changes. 

The resolution still differed from one planned last week urging Jenkins to reconsider dropping initial charges against the Walgreens security guard, Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony

However, Supervisor Shamann Walton, a co-sponsor of the Peskin resolution, also sent a letter of inquiry on his own to Jenkins demanding disclosure of the evidence and urging her to “reconsider and reevaluate” her decision not to press charges at this stage of the case. 

Jenkins responded to Walton’s letter by accusing him of interfering with the case, calling the request “wholly inappropriate and dangerous to the interests of justice.”

At Tuesday’s board meeting, Walton defended his actions, citing advice from the city attorney that his letter to Jenkins was not unethical. He also announced further letters of inquiry to the police department and Walgreens, requesting disclosure of video footage of the incident. 

Demands that Jenkins release video and other evidence in the controversial case have been growing. According to a source who spoke to The Standard anonymously, Brown had threatened to stab Anthony before the shooting, but no weapon was found on him, according to police.

On Sunday, state Sen. Scott Wiener called for a public release of information in the case, reflecting “profound and growing concern in the community, particularly among Black and transgender San Franciscans.” Brown was Black and transgender; Anthony is also Black.

Preston Urges Curbs on Guard Guns

Attendees light candles in honor of shooting victim Banko Brown outside the San Francisco Walgreens where he was killed. | Morgan Ellis/The Standard

Supervisor Dean Preston requested the city attorney draft an ordinance amending the city’s Police Code to limit any use of weapons by private security guards to an actual threat to a person. Current law allows for use in the case of threats to “persons and/or property.” 

“Property should never be placed above human life, and our laws should be crystal clear on that,” stressed Preston in his roll call speech. 

Speaking anonymously to The Standard, five Walgreens security guards have said they were given new orders to actively stop shoplifters just two weeks before Brown was killed. 

Laguna Honda and New Homelessness Concerns 

The exterior of Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco | Juliana Yamada/The Standard

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman’s resolution calling on Mayor London Breed to add another 2,000 shelter beds passed unanimously, amid looming concerns over implementation

Meanwhile, an update on the status of Laguna Honda Hospital hinted at possible new demand for those new beds. 

Supervisors heard a largely upbeat update from Laguna Honda’s Interim Director Roland Pickens, who said two 90-day monitoring surveys by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency that funds the facility, “showed much progress.” 

Pickens continued to be confident that the facility’s recertification plan would be fully in place by May 13, the most recent deadline imposed by the federal agency, which terminated the facility’s funding in April 2022 after reports of issues around patient care and safety, as well as administrative problems. 

An order to close the facility in April 2022 brought forced patient transfers, which have been blamed for the death of some patients. Negotiations produced a settlement last October allowing a temporary hold on discharging patients, which has been periodically continued since. 

Pickens’ optimism was tempered by continuing suspense over whether the federal agency would extend the hold, which currently ends on May 19. The last extension on Feb. 2 wasn’t officially granted until Feb. 1. 

Supervisors discussed the tension around the federal agency’s lack of communication about the extensions and the effect it had on patients and families. Ronen called it “cruel” and accused the agency of “holding patients hostage”; Mandelman called it “bonkers.” 

Another issue surfacing in the process to reopen Laguna Honda is that the facility may no longer be able to serve patients who don’t need skilled nursing care but still have long-term needs such as severe mental illness or addiction.

A working group is currently exploring options for the 41 identified patients in that category, according to Pickens. So far, it has identified possible placements for eight of them. 

Mandelman identified this as “a serious problem if the folks in the institution, which is our highest priority right now, cannot find alternative placements for them. This board and the mayor and the city want us to be finding placements for hundreds more.” 

Supervisor Myrna Melgar, who has been convening the updates, requested another one, barring surprises, in late September. 

Meanwhile, Ronen called for another hearing related to homelessness response.

Citing constituent resistance to shelters due to behavioral health issues spilling over onto adjacent sidewalks, she wants the Department of Public Health to report on the promised implementation of critical case management meant to persistently reach out to mentally ill homeless people. 

“I don’t believe this is being done anywhere in the city, and I would like to have a hearing on it, so we can get to the bottom of it,” Ronen said. 

In Other Votes

District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey stands in front of a mural at Bessie Carmichael Middle School ahead of a community cleaning event with San Francisco Public Works on Oct. 15, 2022. | Kori Suzuki for The Standard
  • Supervisors approved more affordable housing-related legislation, including allowing developers who choose to place their units under rent control to qualify for the HOME-SF density bonus program and giving a bump in line to applicants for affordable housing who have been displaced from illegal units. 
  • Meanwhile, Dorsey’s request for authorization to use the city seal on jackets worn by him and his staff while on city business was unanimously approved, but not before some arch discussion. That discussion included an admonishment from a clearly irritated Peskin that the jackets not be worn while campaigning and Melgar asking why the legislation couldn’t include all supervisors’ offices. Walton replied, “Maybe not every supervisor wants to participate in this.”