Rookie Cop Prosecuted Over Homicide for First Time Ever in San Francisco

District Attorney Chesa Boudin, who ran on a progressive platform, announced the charges.
November 24, 2020, 5:52pm
San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin speaks at a news conference in San Francisco, Monday, Nov. 23, 2020.
San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin speaks at a news conference in San Francisco, Monday, Nov. 23, 2020.  (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

A former San Francisco rookie police officer has been charged with the shooting of an unarmed Black man in a historic decision that marks the first time the city’s district attorney’s office has prosecuted a member of law enforcement for homicide.

Officer Chris Samayoa was charged Monday with voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, assault with a semi-automatic firearm, assault by a police officer, and discharge of a firearm with gross negligence, all in connection to the December 2017 shooting of 42-year-old Keita O’Neil.

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District Attorney Chesa Boudin, who ran on a progressive platform, said his decision to bring charges reflects how he wants his administration to handle police officers who recklessly overstep the duties of the job.

“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,” Boudin said in a statement shortly after announcing the charges on Monday. “In my administration, police officers are not above the law. Police officers are obligated to follow the law when using force—even when responding to serious crimes.”

On Dec. 1, 2017, Samayoa, who had only been on the job four days, began to follow O’Neil in his patrol car with his partner. O’Neil was suspected of carjacking a California State Lottery minivan, according to the district attorney’s office. After stopping at a dead end, O’Neil jumped out of his vehicle and began to run on foot. 

As he fled, O’Neil ran past Samayoa’s police cruiser. Samayoa drew his weapon and shot O’Neil through the passenger-side window, killing him, according to the DA’s office. O’Neil was not armed, and his death was ruled a homicide.

Though Samayoa didn’t turn on his body camera until after the shooting, the incident was caught on camera as the device automatically keeps the most recent 30 seconds of footage captured before being powered on, according to the DA. 

O’Neil’s family filed a federal lawsuit against the San Francisco Police Department two weeks after the fatal shooting, according to San Francisco CBS affiliate KPIX-5. The TV station reported that Samayoa was fired from the department in March 2018 after a three-month investigation of the incident.

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While Samayoa faces criminal charges over the killing of O’Neil, he still has support from the local union, the San Francisco Police Officers Association.

Association President Tony Montoya told the Associated Press that they will stand by Samayoa. 

“We are 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,” Montoya said. 

The San Francisco Police Officers Association did not return VICE News’ request for comment. 

Officer Samayoa is expected to turn himself in later this week, according to the DA’s office. He will be held on $1,000 bail.