It’s incredibly sad to me that a cop being charged for on-duty homicide is a first in 2020, yet that’s exactly what happened in the case of a San Francisco cop who shot an unarmed Black man almost three years ago.
According to CNN, the office of San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin charged former San Francisco police officer Chris Samayoa with voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, assault with a semiautomatic firearm, assault by police officer, and discharge of a firearm with gross negligence. The charges stem from a 2017 incident where Samayoa fatally shot 42-year-old Keita O’Neil, an unarmed Black man who was fleeing from the police.
“As far as we are aware, this is the first-ever time that the San Francisco District Attorney’s office has filed homicide charges against a law enforcement officer for a homicide while on duty,” Boudin said Monday at a press conference. “In SF there has been a long history of officer involved shootings leading to no accountability whatsoever, further cementing the idea that police are above the law. That stops today.”
I mean, generally in America there’s been a long history of officer-involved shootings leading to no accountability, but I guess I can appreciate the sentiment.
In December 2017, Samayoa and his training officer, Edric Talusan, were pursuing O’Neil, who had allegedly carjacked a California Lottery van. When the van reached a dead end, O’Neil exited the vehicle and began to flee on foot. It was at this point, Samayoa aimed out of the passenger side window of the police cruiser and fired at O’Neil, killing him.
“Body camera footage shows that not a single other officer pulled out their service weapon or pointed at Mr. O’Neil,” Boudin said at the press conference. “As a result of Officer Samayoa’s terrible, tragic and unlawful decision to pull and fire his gun that day, Mr. O’Neil was killed and my office is filing charges today.”
As a result of the incident, Samayoa was fired from the San Francisco Police Department in 2018. He had only graduated the academy days before the shooting, according to KQED.
O’Neil’s family and community advocates have expressed satisfaction at the charges but note that this is likely going to involve a lengthy legal battle. Melissa Nold, an attorney representing the family in a federal civil rights case against Samayoa, Talusan, and the city of San Francisco, told KQED that while the charges were “encouraging,” this was “step one of a long process for the family.”
Angela Chan, a civil rights attorney and former San Francisco Police Department commissioner, released a statement on how important these charges are in dismantling a policing culture she calls “problematic,” and “allows officer involved shootings to occur without serious and objective investigations.”
“For many years, the highest ranks of SFPD have rewarded officer-involved shootings by awarding medals of valor when an officer shoots and kills a community member, particularly Black, Latino, and Asian American community members, and even when an internal affairs investigation is pending,” Chan explained.