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Home U.S. News Ex-Police Officer Charged With Manslaughter in 2017 Killing of Suspect

Ex-Police Officer Charged With Manslaughter in 2017 Killing of Suspect

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A former rookie police officer in San Francisco was charged with manslaughter on Monday, nearly three years after he fatally shot an unarmed carjacking suspect, the authorities said.

The ex-officer, Christopher Samayoa, who was on his fourth day of field training after graduating from the police academy, shot and killed Keita O’Neil, 42, on Dec. 1, 2017, according to court documents.

Credit…San Francisco Police Department, via Associated Press

In bringing the charges, Chesa Boudin, the San Francisco district attorney, said that the case was believed to be the first homicide prosecution against a law enforcement officer in San Francisco history.

Mr. Boudin, a Democrat who was elected last year, said in an interview on Monday that the charges represented “a small but significant step toward fulfilling a central platform of my campaign.” He said his office had recently completed its review of the evidence.

“I hope the message people take is that no one is above the law, that we enforce the law equally in San Francisco without regard to the color of your skin, how much money you have in your bank account or to whether you wear a uniform to work,” Mr. Boudin said.

In a news release on Monday, Mr. Boudin said: “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 district attorney’s office obtained an arrest warrant for Mr. Samayoa over the weekend. Mr. Boudin said that Mr. Samayoa was expected to turn himself in later this week.

Mr. Samayoa faces charges of both voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, assault with a semiautomatic firearm, assault by a police officer and discharging a firearm with gross negligence, Mr. Boudin said.

The charges came at a time when high-profile killings of Black people — like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor — have prompted protests against police brutality and calls for officers who kill civilians to be held accountable.

Through the prosecutor’s office, April Green, Mr. O’Neil’s aunt, said she was “happy to hear this news’’ about the charges “and hoping it brings some justice to our family.”

John Burris, a lawyer representing Mr. O’Neil’s mother in a federal civil rights lawsuit, said the family was “delighted” by the charges.

“It’s important for the community to know that there is a district attorney’s office that will respond to and look into police shootings,” Mr. Burris said, adding that Mr. Boudin “can be a leader, a standard-bearer in holding police accountable, but also reassuring the community that they will not allow police shootings to go unjustified or go unpunished.”

Mr. Samayoa’s lawyer, Michael K. Hinckley, did not immediately respond to emails or phone calls on Monday.

The San Francisco Police Officers Association did not respond to phone calls seeking comment on Monday, but its president, Tony Montoya, said in a statement to The Associated Press that the police union was “committed to ensuring that Christopher and his family are supported during this difficult time and that he is accorded his due process rights and provided with a vigorous defense against these charges.”

Earlier, the union had said that Mr. Samayoa was just doing what he was trained to do when the shooting occurred, The San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The killing occurred on Dec. 1, 2017, after Mr. Samayoa and Edric Talusan, a field training officer, responded to an alleged carjacking by Mr. O’Neil, according to the district attorney’s office.

Mr. O’Neil, who was Black, was suspected of having stolen a California State Lottery minivan. Mr. Samayoa and Officer Talusan chased him for a few blocks in the Bayview District when the van reached a dead-end street, at which point Mr. O’Neil jumped out and began to run, Mr. Boudin said in the news release.

Other patrol cars closed in and blocked Mr. O’Neil’s path, at which point he ran past the police car where Mr. Samayoa was seated in the passenger seat. The rookie officer shot Mr. O’Neil as he was running by, killing him, according to the release.

The shooting was captured on Mr. Samayoa’s body camera.

In March 2018, Mr. Samayoa was fired from the Police Department. The department did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment on Monday.

In response to why he did not charge Mr. Samayoa with second-degree murder, Mr. Boudin said in the interview that he was committed to ending “the widely criticized practice of district attorneys across the country of overcharging cases.” He added that “that commitment applies equally to police officer defendants as it does to anyone else.”

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