The California Attorney General’s Office has declined to take the case of a San Francisco police officer who shot and killed an unarmed man, following the case’s dismissal by Brooke Jenkins in March, according to April Green, the victim’s aunt.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta’s representative was due to appear in court Friday to say whether the office plans to resurrect the manslaughter charge against Christopher Samayoa, who killed Keita O’Neil after he jumped out of a van he had allegedly stolen and ran.
“Tomorrow, he plans to dismiss my nephew Keita O’Neil’s case and allow Officer Samayoa to walk away with murdering him in cold blood,” Green said after meeting Thursday with representatives from the Attorney General’s Office.
“We’re incredibly disappointed” in the AG’s decision to not take the case, Brian Ford, Green’s attorney, said.
In a letter to Jenkins, Bonta's office said: “After conducting this comprehensive and thorough review and considering the applicable laws, we conclude that based on all of the evidence available at this time, and considering all likely defenses, the charges against Officer Samayoa cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. We conclude, therefore, that the decision to dismiss the case against Officer Samayoa is not an abuse of discretion.”
Green criticized the move, saying it shows Bonta has not followed up on his campaign promise to make police accountable.
Samayoa had been out of the police academy for four days when he killed O’Neil on Dec. 1, 2017. Samayoa was in the passenger seat of a police car chasing a stolen lottery van when O’Neil bailed from the vehicle and Samayoa fired his weapon. With Samayoa’s hire still probationary, it didn’t take long for Chief Bill Scott to fire him.
Samayoa was one of four cases former DA Chesa Boudin filed against SFPD officers for alleged excessive force. Samayoa’s case was the first criminal charges ever filed against a San Francisco cop for killing someone while on duty.
After Boudin was recalled by voters, Jenkins fired two of the attorneys in charge of prosecuting police under Boudin.
Jenkins revealed her plans to drop the charges against Samayoa in a letter to Bonta that accused Boudin of pursuing the case for political reasons despite issues with the evidence. One such evidentiary problem stemmed from a training exercise in which a paintball struck Samayoa’s head during a simulation that resembled his encounter with O’Neil just weeks later.
Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at email@example.com