SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco District Attorney on 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 says support her decision not to press charges against the guard , substantiate.
District Attorney Brooke Jenkins released the information amid public outrage over the April 27 death of Banko Brown, a 24-year-old who was unarmed, outside a downtown Walgreens building. Last week, the board of directors passed a resolution asking her office and the police to release more evidence. She justified her decision not to attack security guard Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony on the grounds of self-defense.
But the release of surveillance video didn’t seem to calm critics in a city dogged by brazen shoplifting and where there is much disagreement about the appropriate response to crime, especially when the suspect is homeless or impoverished.
The silent footage shows Brown walking towards the door with a bag in hand when he is stopped by Anthony, who then hits him repeatedly. The two fight until Anthony pinches Brown to the ground. Meanwhile, shoppers continued to enter the store during the altercation.
When Anthony lets go of Brown, Brown picks up the bag and makes his way out of the store. He turns and appears to walk towards Anthony, whereupon Anthony raises his gun and fires once, causing Brown to fall back onto the ground outside.
In a police interview, Anthony said he asked Brown to return the items, 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 would 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 charged. He said he fired as Brown advanced, unaware that Brown would simply spit at him.
San Francisco supervisor Shamann Walton said in a statement that the video offered no justification for the shooting. He plans to join Chief Executive Aaron Peskin in asking the Attorney General for an independent review of the prosecutor’s decision.
But Jenkins, who initially dropped the case on May 1, said even after seeking further evidence, there was nothing to disprove the guard’s reasonable claim of self-defense. She urged viewers to review all evidence, including witness and police accounts, particularly given the lack of sound in the video footage.
“There will be a temptation as people to just look at the video footage of this incident and nothing else. We’re used to seeing videos online and often that’s what grabs our attention rather than going a step further” , she said in a press conference.
Brown, who struggled with homelessness, worked as a community organizer for the Young Women’s Freedom Center, a nonprofit organization that supports young women and transgender youth.
“We don’t have to see the video to know that the killing of Banko Brown was unjust. “Armed violence is not a justifiable response to poverty,” Julia Arroyo, the center’s co-executive director, said in a statement Monday. “We have to live with the sobering reality that he was killed for no reason other than $14.”
Arroyo described Brown as a bright and funny young man who was shy but made friends easily.
Supervisor Dean Preston introduced legislation last week banning private security guards from drawing their firearms unless there is an actual and specific threat to an individual.
Walgreens did not immediately respond to an email asking for comment. Walgreens, Target and other downtown retailers have complained of brazen shoplifting. Whole Foods recently announced it would temporarily close a downtown location, citing employee safety.
Kingdom Group Protective Services, which provides security for Walgreens, said in a statement it was cooperating with law enforcement and could not comment further.
State records show that 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 promised to be a fair but tough prosecutor who would not ignore blatant retail thefts and open-air drug dealing.
Los Angeles Associated Press reporter Christopher Weber contributed.