Prosecutors charge California officer with homicide for shooting a black man suspected of a carjacking in 2017
Jake Dima, DCNF
San Francisco prosecutors on Monday announced charges against a former city police officer for the fatal shooting of a black man who was suspected of stealing a minivan in 2017.
Chris Samayoa, who was relieved of duty following the incident three years ago, purportedly shot Keita O’Neil, 42, through the window of his patrol car as he fled on foot near a dead-end street, according to a press release from the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office. Samayoa is believed to be the first officer charged with homicide in the city’s history, according to the press release.
“For too long, we have seen the failures of our legal system to hold police accountable for the violence committed against the members of the public they are entrusted to keep safe. In my administration, police officers are not above the law,” District Attorney Chesa Boudin said in the announcement.
“Police officers are obligated to follow the law when using force — even when responding to serious crimes. As District Attorney, I will continue to hold accountable officers who inflict unlawful violence and breach the trust the public places in them.”
The former officer faces charges of voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, assault with a semi-automatic firearm, assault by a police officer and discharge of a firearm with gross negligence, according to the release. The case was reportedly being investigated before Boudin’s term and the DA issued a warrant for Samayoa’s arrest on Saturday.
O’Neil was sought by officers for his suspected role in the theft of a California State Lottery minivan and the 42-year-old was unarmed at the time of his death, according to the DA’s office.
Video of the incident showed a police cruiser in pursuit of the van before two people bailed out of the vehicle near the end of the roadway. Samayoa is seen drawing his service weapon and firing through the passenger-side window of the vehicle, fatally striking O’Neil.
Prosecutors allege that the officer failed to activate his body camera until after the shooting, but his device recorded the incident due to a feature that obtains footage 30 seconds prior to manual start-up, according to the release.
San Francisco Police Officers’ Association President Martin Halloran at the time of the shooting backed Samoyoa “for doing what he was trained to do” and cited his record as rookie officer in his defense in a 2018 letter.
“Chris had a very promising career as a San Francisco police officer in front of him…until last Friday, when Chief Scott fired him,” Halloran wrote. “Chris was fired for doing what he was trained to do by the SFPD Academy, and for what happened on his fourth day on the job under extremely stressful and difficult circumstances.”