SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins announced Monday that the Banko Brown homicide case is not closed. Charges could still be filed against Brown’s killer if police find additional evidence.
A security guard who was working at a Walgreens store on Market Street shot Brown on April 27, police said. Brown was unarmed and was confronted by the guard for shoplifting, according to investigators. He reportedly stole $14 worth of candy from the Walgreens.
Brown, an unhoused 24-year-old transgender Black man, interned at the Young Women’s Freedom Project.
The security guard was identified by police as 33-year-old Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony. Anthony “believed he was in mortal danger,” according to the district attorney.
In Jenkins’ initial statement about the case last week, the district attorney 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.”
Jenkins’ tone changed on Monday when 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.”
The day of the shooting, Anthony was arrested and booked into jail on one count of murder.
Jenkins explained why her office did not file any charges, and why the security guard was set free from jail.
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 triggered dismay and outrage among transgender rights advocates, Brown’s family, and some city leaders. Protesters gathered outside the Walgreens holding up photographs of Brown and called for the store’s surveillance camera footage to be released to the public.
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 he was concerned by the district attorney’s decision to not press any charges. Peskin told his fellow supervisors, “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.”
Brown spent many hours seeking housing assistance from the city, but was unable to access it, according to Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). “Our continued shortage of permanent supportive housing and shelter beds mean we continue to fail thousands of Banko Browns every day,” he said.
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 calls to immediately release Walgreens surveillance video footage of the shooting. 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.”
San Francisco Supervisor Dean Preston wrote on Twitter Monday evening, “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 deserves a higher degree of 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.”