When San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins announced that her office would not file charges against security guard Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony after he shot and killed Banko Brown at a Downtown Walgreens, part of her reasoning rested on the strength of Anthony’s potential self-defense case.
“In a self-defense case, the defendant would likely be able to use [Brown’s] past record,” said the District Attorney’s Office in an analysis of the case that led to the controversial decision not to charge Anthony. Usually, such evidence can be countered by similar evidence of violence in the defendant’s past, but that is not the case for Anthony, according to the analysis.
In Brown’s case, the DA’s report was alluding to criminal history that includes a 2019 guilty plea Brown entered for felony robbery after stealing from another Walgreens, on Mission Street, according to newly reviewed documents obtained by The Standard.
Brown had two prior second-degree robbery convictions, court records show. On Dec. 19, 2016, Brown—who was then 17 years old—was convicted as a juvenile and sentenced to state prison for that offense. It's unclear how many years Brown was sentenced to.
Then Brown was arrested on March 27, 2019, and charged again with second-degree robbery. He pleaded guilty in that second offense to stealing makeup from the Walgreens at 2690 Mission St.
Second-degree robbery is essentially shoplifting with physical contact, such as what occurred before Anthony shot Brown, say legal experts.
Brown was ordered to stay away from both the store and the security guard who witnessed the crime, Elias Omba Mulembo.
Brown was on probation until July 11, 2022, soon after which he was arrested twice: once for false imprisonment on Aug. 12, 2022, and once for domestic battery on Aug. 4 of the same year. Both cases were dismissed under Jenkins.
Despite the district attorney’s reliance on Brown’s prior convictions, several legal experts said that this history would likely have played little role in a prosecution against Anthony.
“I think those are details that favor the guard, but I don’t think they’re defining,” Tony Brass, a former San Francisco assistant district attorney, said of Brown’s past convictions.
Even if the guard had known of those convictions before the fatal shooting, it is unlikely that would have helped in his defense, Brass said.
Attorney John Burris, who is representing Brown’s family in a civil suit, agreed, saying that Brown’s past cases should have no bearing on why the DA did not pursue charges against Anthony.
“I don’t think those prior cases in and of themselves would justify using deadly force,” he said. “If you use that as a basis not to charge, that's a character assassination.”
The only reason past cases would be admissible is if Anthony had prior knowledge of those cases, Burris said.
Brown was shot and killed by Anthony on April 27 after trying to leave a Walgreens in Downtown San Francisco with several items he allegedly stole. Video shows Anthony stopped Brown and the two briefly fought before separating. Brown then left the store and turned to face Anthony, who shot him once. Anthony later told police he feared for his life because Brown had threatened to stab him.
No weapon was found on Brown, a Black trans man, whose death protesters say sends a message that LGBTQ+ people are not safe in San Francisco.
Anthony, who is also Black, had not brought his baton to work that day and does not own pepper spray or a taser, according to the interview he gave police after the shooting.
Jenkins said she refused to prosecute Anthony because the evidence showed that he shot Brown in self-defense.
Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org