California Attorney General Rob Bonta has agreed to review the deadly shooting of Banko Brown by a security guard at a San Francisco Walgreens after local prosecutors declined to file charges.
State justice officials will review District Attorney Brooke Jenkins’ decision to not charge security guard Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony in the April 27 killing at the drugstore near Market and Fourth streets, the California Department of Justice confirmed on Tuesday.
“Our office has agreed to review whether the San Francisco District Attorney’s decision not to file charges was an abuse of discretion,” a spokesperson for Bonta told The Standard in an email.
The decision comes after widespread outrage over the killing and the release of surveillance footage showing the shooting spurred a group of San Francisco supervisors to call for the California Department of Justice or federal prosecutors to take a second look at the case.
While police booked Anthony on suspicion of murder, he was soon released after Jenkins declined to charge him, saying, “the suspect believed he was in mortal danger and acted in self-defense.”
She reaffirmed her decision on May 15.
Because the shooting occurred "during the course and scope of a robbery, the law presumes that it is reasonable for Anthony to be in fear of great bodily injury or death,” the District Attorney’s Office said.
Brown, a 24-year-old Black transgender man who volunteered with an advocacy group for homeless youth, was shot while allegedly shoplifting from the Walgreens. Video footage from the store released by Jenkins following public pressure shows Brown walking with a bag toward the exit when Anthony, 33, confronts him at the door.
A violent encounter ensues in which Anthony appears to punch Brown and put him in a headlock as the pair wrestle to the ground. The two then part, and Brown leaves the store but turns back, at which point Anthony shoots him.
Anthony told police that at some point during their scuffle, Brown threatened to stab him. However, there is no audio in the security footage, and Brown was later found to be unarmed. No witnesses corroborated the alleged threat by Brown.
The Standard later revealed that the private security firm employing Anthony had flip-flopped on its rules of engagement for guards.
The firm, Kingdom Group Protective Services, told them to confront shoplifters in the lead up to the shooting before rescinding the order an hour after the incident. Then, less than a week after the fatal encounter, guards were told not to bring guns to work. Ultimately, Walgreens canceled its contract with the firm.
John Burris, the lawyer representing the Brown family, plans to file a wrongful death suit Friday against Walgreens, Anthony and the security firm.
Burris said he asked the Attorney General’s Office to take a look at the case last week, and was “pleased” by the news.
“I’m not surprised at their response because the case is pretty egregious,” Burris said.
While not confident that the review will result in any charges, Burris said he believes that Anthony should at least face a charge of manslaughter.
“Their willingness to take a look at it, that’s not a guarantee that they are going to do it,” he said. “But they should.”
This is not the first time Bonta decided to take a second look at a case that Jenkins declined to charge. In February, Bonta agreed to review Jenkins’ decision to drop charges against former San Francisco police officer Christopher Samayoa in the fatal shooting of Keita O’Neil. But last week, Bonta decided not to take over the prosecution.
Michael Barba can be reached at [email protected]
Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at [email protected]