San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins announced Monday that her office has come to a final decision not to file charges against the Walgreens security guard accused of shooting alleged shoplifter Banko Brown, and with the decision the surveillance footage from the case has been made public.
The April 27 killing just outside the doors of a Walgreens at 825 Market Street has caused widespread uproar in the last two weeks, in large part because Jenkins made an early decision to release the shooter, 33-year-old Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony, without charges. Eyewitness accounts from the day of the shooting suggested that Anthony and Brown had gotten into a physical altercation, and that Anthony had thrown the much smaller Brown on the ground and kicked Brown out of the store before ultimately shooting him.
Anthony has claimed self-defense, and today — just days after Jenkins appeared to be hedging about potential charges — Jenkins doubled down on her original judgement, saying that no charges would be filed.
"We are not going to be filing charges against Mr. Anthony," Jenkins said, speaking with KTVU. "We do not believe that there is sufficient evidence to overcome what we would expect his defense of self-defense to be."
Multiple angles of surveillance video were also released Monday by the DA's office, and the picture isn't exactly convincing, though we now learn that Anthony says — and perhaps other witnesses corroborated this — that Brown repeatedly threatened to stab him.
As the video shows, Brown was outside the store when he either said something — or by some accounts spat — at Anthony, before Anthony decides to pull his gun and shoot. The shooting follows about 15 seconds of scuffling on the ground inside the store, after which Brown goes back to fetch a shopping bag and exits.
A more complete version of the video posted by the Chronicle shows Brown appearing to "flex" or "lunge" at Anthony just before the shot was fired, but whether that looks like a serious threat — given their relative size — could be debated.
The DA's Office also released video from Anthony's interview with police in which he said, "The only reason I [took a shot] was that I felt I was in danger. And if I had let that person go, I would have been harmed."
No knife was ever recovered on Brown's person or at the scene, but Jenkins says it is what Anthony thought "in that moment" that would have to be argued against in court to overcome a self-defense claim.
We also learn today that Anthony's employer, the security firm Kingdom Group Protective Services, had made an instruction to staff that day, April 27, that they should engage in "hands-on" recovery of stolen merchandise if they witnessed someone trying to leave the store with it.
The complete report from the DA's Office, which Jenkins promised late last week in the event that charges were not filed, can be found here.
"During the struggle, Anthony reports that Brown repeatedly threatened to stab him," the report says. "Anthony had Brown pinned down and released Brown after telling Brown repeatedly that he would let Brown go if Brown calmed down. Anthony released Brown, stepped back, and drew his firearm because of the stabbing threats, but pointed the firearm at the ground. Brown grabbed the bag of goods off the floor, made for the exit, then turned and lunged in Anthony’s direction, after which the shot was fired. Anthony said he shot because he was in fear for his safety."
Witnesses noted in the report say that Brown spat in Anthony's face, and, per the report, "Witness 2 indicated that the spit, flinch, and shot all seemed to happen at the same time."
Reactions to the video release should be many, and widespread.
Mayor London Breed made her first comments on the shooting on Friday, likely anticipating today's announcement.
"I understand the sensitivity of investigations and expect the D.A. and SFPD to deliver a thorough, fair and transparent investigation," breed said. "I know what it feels like to lose someone to violence, especially a young person, and I know there’s a lot of pain right now in the community and in these tragic moments, we need the truth."
Update: Three SF supervisors have issued statements following the release of the video, per KRON4.
Supervisor Shamann Walton, who has been among those urging Jenkins to reconsider charges against Anthony, says, "I have watched the video several times, Banko Brown was clearly walking backwards, after being thrown to the ground, punched, and abused by the security guard for several seconds Banko walks backwards and is executed. The security guard had the upper hand the entire time and even told Banko that he was letting him go. Where is the perceived threat?"
Walton adds, "DA Jenkins’ decision to not charge gives every armed security guard in San Francisco a license to have an open season to shoot and kill Black and transgender people for alleged shoplifting."
Supervisor Dean Preston says, "The video of the Banko Brown shooting was released by the District Attorney today. I want to thank Banko Brown’s family, friends, and community advocates who demanded that the video be brought to light. I am horrified by this video which appears to show Banko Brown being executed for shoplifting. I do not understand how the District Attorney could have reviewed this video and concluded that the guard 'believed he was in mortal danger and acted in self defense.'"
And former SFPD communications guy Supervisor Matt Dorsey says in a Twitter thread, "I have spent most of my career in offices that have central roles to play in our criminal and civil justice system, and I’ve learned over the years to never assume for myself the role of juror unless and until I actually serve on a jury. Even as a non-juror, however, I’ve certainly sat through my share of trials, and I am well aware that video evidence and summary witness statements are only a small portion of the evidence that an actual jury would consider in doing justice and deciding a case's fate."
Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, who was the first to call for Jenkins to "reconsider" charges (though he sort of walked that back last week), has yet to weigh in.