In an effort to quell the public outcry and protests that have been occurring following her office's decision not to file charges the security guard responsible for the death of Banko Brown, SF District Attorney Brooke Jenkins issued a statement Monday making clear that charges still may be forthcoming.
There was yet another protest Sunday outside the Walgreens where 24-year-old Banko Brown was shot just ten days earlier. Witnesses who have spoken to the press and friends of Brown have painted a picture of a brazen killing by an armed security guard who, after a brief scuffle with the much smaller Brown, threw Brown physically out of the store and then shot him over $14 worth of allegedly shoplifted candy.
These accounts have suggested that Brown was unarmed, and Supervisor Aaron Peskin last week also said that police informed him that Brown was unarmed, but that he had "assumed a fighting stance" prior to the shooting.
Peskin, and Brown's family, friends, and supporters have been publicly calling for the release of the surveillance video from the store, and Peskin publicly urged Jenkins last week — in an unusual move — to "reconsider" filing charges.
Jenkins makes clear in her statement today that the filing decision remains up in the air, but that her office had a legal obligation either to file charges on May 1 or let the suspect, 33-year-old Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony free pending charges.
"By law, a suspect that is in custody must be charged within 72 hours and can not be held indefinitely as that would violate due process," Jenkins writes. She adds that the "evidence gathered at that point did not meet the prosecution's burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the suspect in the case was guilty of a crime."
Jenkins previously said that the evidence — which includes witness statements as well as video — "clearly shows that the suspect believed he was in mortal danger and acted in self-defense."
But as the pushback and outcry have continued, Jenkins has changed her tone around how "clear" the evidence, saying, "I have asked SFPD investigators to locate and interview additional witnesses and gather additional evidence. A final charging decision will be made when the investigation is complete."
Jenkins adds, "If a final decision to charge the suspect is made, this case will be prosecuted in the courtroom, not in the press or on social media." And she says that releasing video or other evidence now could potentially compromise the investigation.
And, Jenkins is preparing for the possibility that no charges will ultimately be filed. "If a final decision is made to not charge in this case, my office will publicly release a comprehensive report that provides a full accounting of the evidence reviewed and how the decision was made because I understand the public’s need for a higher degree of transparency in this case," Jenkins says.
Public outcry over the shooting is reminiscent of cases in which the SFPD has fatally shot unarmed men in recent years, though in this case the suspect was a security guard licensed to carry a firearm who discharged it on an alleged shoplifter.
Brown's family has reportedly retained civil rights attorney John Burris, though it's not clear whether Burris will seek to file charges of his own.
Julia Arroyo, co-executive director of the Young Women’s Freedom Center where Brown had volunteered and found community, said in a statement, "We need this City to do better. San Francisco has to be safe for young Black people and trans youth who are experiencing poverty."