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District attorney Brooke Jenkins declines to charge San Francisco cop in manslaughter case

An image from a case file of San Francisco Police Department Officer Kenneth Cha shows him after an altercation with Sean Moore, whom Cha shot and killed on Jan. 6, 2017, on the 500 block of Capitol Avenue in San Francisco.

Days after moving forward on a case against a San Francisco police officer who faced manslaughter charges for the 2017 shooting of a man on his own doorstep, the San Francisco District Attorney's Office said it is dropping the case.

A deputy for DA Brooke Jenkins had announced plans last week to hold a preliminary hearing Sept. 6 in the case of Officer Kenneth Cha, in the last of three use-of-force cases filed by former District Attorney Chesa Boudin, who was recalled by voters last year. Jenkins’ office dismissed the other two cases. 

The 2017 incident marked the first time that a police shooting was captured in San Francisco by an officer's body camera. 

Sean Moore is seen on the steps of his home in video captured on San Francisco police body cam before he was shot by Kenneth Cha. | Courtesy SFPD

Cha shot Sean Moore on Jan. 6 of that year during a confrontation at Moore's Ocean View neighborhood home. Four months after shooting Moore, Cha fatally shot a knife-wielding suspect in a Subway restaurant on Market Street.

Moore, who suffered from mental health issues that may have played a part in his interaction with Cha, died in 2020 while serving time in San Quentin State Prison for an unrelated incident. Cha was charged with voluntary manslaughter in 2021 by then-DA Boudin. In July 2022, the case was taken over by a new assistant district attorney after Jenkins was appointed district attorney following Boudin’s recall. Several delays in the case followed.

District Attorney Brooke Jenkins speaks to the San Francisco Standard on May 31, 2023. | Justin Katigbak for The Standard

The dismissal was first reported Sunday by Mission Local. In a statement, Jenkins said her office could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Cha "did not act in reasonable self-defense."

She pointed back to an unpublished internal report by former District Attorney George Gascón's office that cited insufficient evidence that Cha or two other responding officers in the incident had broken the law.

"Mr. Moore’s subsequent death, tragic as it is, did not change the analysis which is grounded in the events that occurred at the time of the incident," Jenkins said in the statement.

Rebecca Young, a lawyer who represents Moore's family, called prosecutors’ sudden turnabout on the case "duplicitous" and "moronic."

Young said that Ken Blackmon, Moore’s brother, was so angry when Assistant District Attorney Darby Williams called the family Friday about the decision not to file charges against Cha that he refused to speak with her and hung up the phone. 

On Monday, Cha’s lawyer Scott Burrell greeted word of the dismissal as a "courageous and correct step." He called the police officer’s journey "a cautionary tale that everyone is in danger when a prosecution office chooses politics over complying with law."

On July 18, Burrell thanked the district attorney's office after the dismissal happened officially, saying in part that "[n]o facts about the incident changed between 2017 and 2020 when the charges were filed against Officer Cha by Chesa Boudin.

"The only change was that Boudin was more than willing to put politics over following the facts, following the law, and following basic ethical rules that should guide every prosecution agency," he added. "Kenneth Cha should never have been put through this reckless prosecution; and he is relieved that it is over."

George Kelly can be reached at gkelly@sfstandard.com