A former rookie police officer in San Francisco was charged with manslaughter on Monday, nearly three years after he shot and killed an unarmed carjacking suspect, authorities said.
Ex-officer Christopher Samayoa, who was on his fourth day of field training after graduating from the police academy, shot and killed Keita O’Neil, 42, on December 1, 2017 , according to court documents.
Laying the charges, Chesa Boudin, the district attorney for San Francisco, said the case was considered the first homicide prosecution against a law enforcement officer in San Francisco’s history.
Mr Boudin, a Democrat who was elected last year, said in an interview Monday that the accusations represented “a small but important step towards achieving a central platform for my campaign.” He said his office recently completed its review of the evidence.
“I hope the message people are sending is that no one is above the law, that we enforce the law the same in San Francisco, regardless of your skin color, the amount of money. that you have in your bank account or that you are wearing a uniform. at work, ”said Boudin.
In a statement released on Monday, Boudin said: “Police officers are required to obey the law when using force – even when responding to serious crimes. As a district attorney, I will continue to hold officers to account who inflict unlawful violence and violate public trust. “
The district attorney’s office obtained an arrest warrant for Mr. Samayoa over the weekend. Mr Boudin said Mr Samayoa was due to surrender later this week.
Mr. Samayoa faces charges of manslaughter and manslaughter, assault with a semi-automatic firearm, assault by a police officer and grossly negligent unloading of a firearm, a declared Mr. Boudin.
The charges came at a time when high-profile murders of blacks – like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor – sparked protests against police brutality and calls for accountability from officers who kill civilians.
Through the DA’s office, April Green, Mr O’Neil’s aunt, said she was “happy to hear this news” about the charges “and hoped it would do our family justice.”
John Burris, an attorney representing Mr. O’Neil’s mother in a federal civil rights lawsuit, said the family were “thrilled” with the charges.
“It is important for the community to know that there is a district attorney’s office that will respond to and review police shootings,” Burris said, adding that Mr. Boudin “can be a leader, a door standard to hold the police accountable. , but also reassuring the community that they will not allow police shootings to go unjustified or go unpunished.
Mr Samayoa’s attorney, Michael K. Hinckley, did not immediately respond to emails or phone calls on Monday.
The San Francisco Police Officers Association did not respond to phone calls seeking comment on Monday, but its president, Tony Montoya, said in a statement to The Associated Press that the police union was “determined to do so. ensuring that Christopher and his family are supported during this operation. difficult period and enjoy due process rights and a vigorous defense against these charges.
Previously, the union said Mr. Samayoa was only doing what he was trained to do at the time of the shooting, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
The murder took place on December 1, 2017, after Mr. Samayoa and Edric Talusan, a field training officer, responded to an alleged carjacking by Mr. O’Neil, according to the district attorney’s office.
Mr. O’Neil, who was black, was suspected of stealing a California State Lottery van. Mr. Samayoa and Constable Talusan chased him for a few blocks in the Bayview District when the van reached a dead end, at which point Mr. O’Neil jumped up and started running, Mr. Boudin in the press release.
Other patrol cars closed and blocked Mr. O’Neil’s path, in which case he passed the police car where Mr. Samayoa was sitting in the passenger seat. The rookie officer shot Mr. O’Neil as he ran, killing him, the statement said.
The shot was captured on Mr. Samayoa’s body camera.
In March 2018, Mr. Samayoa was fired from the police department. The ministry did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment on Monday.
In response to his reasons for not charging Mr. Samayoa with second degree murder, Mr. Boudin said in the interview that he pledged to end “the widely criticized practice of district attorneys. across the country overcharging business ”. He added that “this commitment applies to police accused as well as to anyone”.