California AG gets 90 days to review ex-officer charges

A judge has granted the state attorney general’s request for 90 more days to review the case against a former San Francisco police officer who became the first in the city to be charged with an on-duty killing

Olga R. Rodriguez
Tuesday 07 March 2023 23:15 GMT

A judge on Tuesday granted the state attorney general's request for 90 more days to review the case against a former San Francisco police officer who became the first in the city to be charged with an on-duty killing.

The top prosecutor’s request comes after San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins announced last month she planned to drop manslaughter charges against former officer Christian Samayoa who in 2017 fatally shot Keita O’Neil, a carjacking suspect. Samayoa was on his fourth day on the job when he fired a single shot at O'Neil as he fled on foot.

Chesa Boudin, Jenkins’ predecessor, charged Samayoa with manslaughter and other charges after he took office in 2020, calling his decision “historic.” Boudin was part of a politically progressive wave of prosecutors committed to seeking restorative justice over mass incarceration. He was recalled from his post last year amid frustration and anxiety over the pandemic and viral footage of Asian seniors being assaulted in San Francisco.

Jenkins said in a February letter to Attorney General Rob Bonta that she intended to drop the charges against Samayoa because an investigation into Boudin’s handling of the case revealed internal conflicts. She said the charges were filed just before the statute of limitations for manslaughter was to expire and the warrant was signed by an investigator who had been assigned to the case days earlier — while the longtime lead investigator was on vacation.

She asked Bonta to review the case per O’Neil’s family’s wishes.

The judge's decision postpones the case's dismissal until June 5 when the parties will be back in court, the attorney general's office said.

O’Neil's family has been pushing for state prosecutors to take over the case.

“I’m ecstatic. This is a great day,” April Green, O'Neil's aunt, said outside the courtroom about the judge's decision Tuesday.

O’Neil, who died at a hospital, was suspected of assaulting a California Lottery employee and stealing a van that belonged to the agency. Police said they chased the van and another SUV seen traveling with it to a public housing area. O’Neil abandoned the stolen vehicle and started running toward the patrol car occupied by Samayoa, who was in the passenger seat, and his training officer.

Body camera footage shows Samayoa drawing his pistol while the cruiser was still moving. The video then shows him opening the side door and firing a single shot through the window as O’Neil runs by in the opposite direction. O’Neil, who died later at a hospital, was not armed.

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