San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins announced Monday that Banko Brown’s homicide case is not closed.
If additional evidence was found, charges could still be filed against Brown’s killer.
On April 27, a security guard working at a Walgreens store on Market Street shot an unarmed Brown for allegedly shoplifting. It was reported that Brown stole $14 worth of candy from the store.
Brown was an unhoused 24-year-old transgender Black man who interned at the Young Women’s Freedom Project.
The security guard was identified as Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony, 33, who believed he was in danger.
In Jenkins’ statement last week, the DA said, “The evidence clearly shows that the suspect believed he was in mortal danger and acted in self-defense. We cannot bring forward charges when there is credible evidence of reasonable self-defense.”
However, on Monday, Jenkins gave a different approach. She wrote, “The investigation into the killing of Banko Brown is ongoing. I hear and understand the concerns from people calling for transparency, but releasing any evidence before the investigation is complete could compromise the investigation and is unethical.”
On the day of the shooting, Anthony was arrested and booked into jail on one count of murder. He was released from jail, and Jenkins explained why her office did not file any charges.
She wrote Monday, “We had to make a charging decision by 4 p.m. on May 1 because the suspect was being held in custody. By law, a suspect that is in custody must be charged within 72 hours and can not be held indefinitely as that would violate due process.”
Jenkins’ decision against filing charges dismayed members of the transgender community, Brown’s family, and some city leaders.
People are calling to release the surveillance camera footage of the shooting.
Brown’s mother, Kevinisha Henderson, believes there was no justification for the security guard killing her son. “There was absolutely no reason for him to do what he did,” Henderson said.
San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin said that the DA’s decision to not press charges is concerning, “If you hear the details that I heard, at a minimum, this appears to be a manslaughter case.”
“We are beyond devastated by Banko’s passing, wrote Julia Arroyo, Young Women’s Freedom Center’s co-executive director of the center. “He was a smart and funny young man who, though shy, made friends easily. He was resilient and tenacious and loved by our whole community.”
Arroyo wrote, “We need this City to do better. San Francisco has to be safe for young Black people and trans youth who are experiencing poverty.”
Jenkins said she asked SFPD investigators to find and interview additional witnesses and gather additional evidence. “If a final decision to charge the suspect is made, this case will be prosecuted in the courtroom, not in the press or on social media,” Jenkins said.
The district attorney resisted releasing Walgreens’ surveillance video footage of the shooting immediately. Releasing it into a vacuum would be unethical and irresponsible, she said.
Jenkins wrote, “Videos are not the only pieces of evidence that my office reviewed in making the initial decision to discharge the case. We reviewed witness statements as well as statements from the suspect, which also can not be released at this time as the investigation is still ongoing.”
On Monday evening, San Francisco Supervisor Dean Preston wrote on Twitter, “Think about this. How could the DA possibly be considering bringing charges when she already PUBLICLY stated in writing that it’s a case of self defense? She already ruined any possible case. Her public written statement is all a defense attorney would need to get an acquittal.”
Preston said it seems as though Jenkins’ sudden claim that the case is open is merely a tactic for keeping the video out of the public eye.
Jenkins said she recognizes that the Banko Brown case more transparency.
San Francisco’s top prosecutor wrote, “Evidence will be presented in the courts. If a final decision is made to not charge in this case, my office will publicly release a comprehensive report that provides a full accounting of the evidence reviewed and how the decision was made because I understand the public’s need for a higher degree of transparency in this case.”