San Francisco's DA to drop charges against cop in fatal 2017 OIS

Brooke Jenkins claims her predecessor sought manslaughter charges against Christopher Samayoa for "political reasons and not in the interests of justice"

By Alec Regimbal

SAN FRANCISCO — On Thursday, San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins told the family of Keita O'Neil, a carjacking suspect who was shot and killed by police officer Christopher Samayoa in 2017, that her office intends to drop the charges against Samayoa because she says her predecessor — Chesa Boudin — filed those charges for "political reasons."

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Jenkins informed state Attorney General Rob Bonta of her decision in a nine-page letter she sent to his office Wednesday. In that letter, Jenkins told Bonta that she could not "ethically proceed" with the manslaughter charge against Samayoa after formally looking into Boudin's decision to prosecute the case.

"It appears that the case was filed for political reasons and not in the interests of justice," Jenkins wrote in the letter. "I cannot pursue this case out of political convenience. Given the conflicts that have arisen, the evidentiary problems, and the complete lack of good faith surrounding the filing of this matter, we cannot ethically proceed with this prosecution."

Neither the district attorney's office nor the attorney for O'Neil's family, Brian Ford, responded to requests for comment from SFGATE in time for publication.

Samayoa had been with the San Francisco Police Department for only a few days when he shot and killed O'Neil, who was unarmed and suspected of stealing a California State Lottery van. Police body camera footage shows O'Neil running on foot past the patrol car Samayoa was sitting in, when Samayoa opens the passenger door and shoots O'Neil once through the window. O'Neil was later pronounced dead at a local hospital and Samayoa was fired a short time after.

[EARLIER: Former San Francisco cop charged with manslaughter in fatal 2017 OIS]

Even though the shooting occurred in 2017, Boudin decided to file several charges against Samayoa — including voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, assault by an executive officer, assault with a semi-automatic firearm and negligent discharge of a firearm — in late 2020. The charges were historic at the time.

In her letter to Bonta, according to the Chronicle, Jenkins said Boudin filed those charges just nine days before the statute of limitations on manslaughter expired. She also argued that the case against Samayoa — who in interviews with investigators claimed he saw O'Neil reaching into his waistband as he ran past the patrol car — was weak, and concluded that Boudin had decided to take up the case to score political points.

In recent days, Ford and members of O'Neil's family have asked Bonta's office to take up the case, claiming that Jenkins' office was colluding with Samayoa's defense team to get the charges dropped. In her letter, Jenkins told Bonta that she would drop the charges during a hearing on March 1, which would reopen the statute of limitations and give Bonta's office exactly nine days to decide whether to take over the case.


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