SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco’s district attorney Monday released surveillance video showing the fatal shooting of a suspected shoplifter by an on-duty Walgreens security guard, along with other footage and documents that she said support her decision not to file charges against the guard.
District Attorney Brooke Jenkins released the information amid public outcry over the April 27 death of Banko Brown, a 24-year-old who was not armed, outside a downtown Walgreens. Last week, the Board of Supervisors approved a resolution urging her office and the police department to release more evidence. She cited self-defense in her decision not to charge the guard, Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony.
But the release of surveillance video did not appear to quell critics in a city dogged by brazen shoplifting and wide division over the appropriate responses to crime, particularly when the suspect is homeless or impoverished.
The footage, which does not have sound, shows Brown heading for the door with a bag in his hand when he is stopped by Anthony, who then punches him repeatedly. The two struggle until Anthony pins Brown to the ground. Meanwhile, shoppers continued to enter the store during the confrontation.
When Anthony lets Brown go, Brown picks up the bag and moves to exit the store. He turns around and appears to step toward Anthony, at which point Anthony lifts his gun and shoots once, sending Brown falling back onto the ground outside.
In a police interview, Anthony said he told Brown to put the items back, but Brown was aggressive and fought to keep the items. He said he told Brown he would let him go if he calmed down, and that Brown kept saying he was going to stab him. A knife was not found on Brown.
Anthony said he let Brown go, but he drew his gun and kept it pointed at the ground just in case Brown attacked. He said he shot when Brown advanced, not realizing Brown would just spit at him.
San Francisco Supervisor Shamann Walton said in a statement that the video does not show justification for the shooting. He plans to join Board President Aaron Peskin in calling on the state attorney general for an independent review of the prosecutor’s decision.
But Jenkins, who initially discharged the case May 1, said that even after seeking more evidence, there was nothing to rebut the guard’s reasonable claim of self-defense. She pleaded with viewers to review all the evidence, including witness and police reports, especially since the video footage lacks sound.
“There will be a temptation, as human beings, to only view the video footage of this incident and nothing else. We are accustomed to seeing videos online, and that often is what captures our attention rather than going the extra step to look deeper,” she said in a news conference.
Brown, who struggled with homelessness, worked as a community organizer for the Young Women’s Freedom Center, a nonprofit that provides support for young women and trans youth.
“We do not need to see the video to know that Banko Brown’s killing was unjustified. Armed force is not a justified response to poverty,” said Julia Arroyo, the center’s co-executive director, in a statement Monday. “We must live with the sobering reality that he was killed for no other cause but $14.”
Arroyo has described Brown as smart and funny young man who, while shy, made friends easily.
Supervisor Dean Preston introduced legislation last week so that private security guards could not draw their firearms unless there is an actual and specific threat to a person.
Walgreens did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. Walgreens, Target and other merchants downtown have complained about brazen shoplifting. Whole Foods recently announced it would temporarily shutter a downtown location, citing employee safety.
Kingdom Group Protective Services, which provides security for Walgreens, said in a statement that it is cooperating with law enforcement and could not provide further comment.
State records show Anthony has been licensed as a security guard since 2012.
Jenkins became district attorney last year after voters ousted her predecessor, Chesa Boudin, over criticism that he was too soft on crime. She pledged to be a fair but tough prosecutor who would not ignore blatant retail theft and open-air drug dealing.
Associated Press reporter Christopher Weber in Los Angeles contributed.