The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office announced on Monday that a Walgreens security guard who fatally shot a transgender shoplifter will not be charged because he was in “mortal danger.”
Across the U.S., the black community has grown increasingly emboldened to steal from stores because they face no penalty for doing so. This problem has grown particularly rampant in California because stealing merchandise worth $950 or less is just a misdemeanor, meaning that law enforcement likely won’t pursue the thieves. Additionally, for safety purposes, employees are instructed to not engage with shoplifters.
On April 27, a 33-year-old security guard named Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony was working at Walgreens in downtown San Francisco when a transgender woman named Banko Brown, 24, attempted to leave the store with a bag of stolen merchandise.
Anthony tried to stop Brown but she began to fight back and threatened to stab him, which caused Anthony to fear for his life as they continued to struggle.
Anthony put Brown in a chokehold and got her down on the floor of the store. He eventually got off her and seemed to be letting her go. Brown ran for the bag of stolen goods and tried to back out of the store. However, Anthony followed her out and, when Brown seemed to lung towards him, Anthony shot her.
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The surveillance footage from the Walgreens showing the altercation and shooting was released to the public.
WARNING: Some viewers may find the following footage disturbing
In an interview with SFPD that was released to the public, Anthony recounted the incident as it played out in his memory. He said, “The whole time we were wrestling, she’s saying she’s gonna stab me and that’s what really put fear in my heart.”
“She walked towards the door, but then she turned around and advanced back turned towards me. That’s when I already had my weapon drawn and when she moved towards me, that’s when I fired one shot. I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t. I felt like I was in danger. I felt like I was going to be stabbed… and I didn’t know what to expect after the hostility,” explained Anthony.
WATCH: In a recorded police interview, Walgreens security guard Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony discusses how he remembers the fatal shooting of Banko Brown unfolding.
The video is part of a trove of evidence and video footage related to the killing that was released by SF DA… pic.twitter.com/XX4x407ewZ
— The San Francisco Standard (@sfstandard) May 16, 2023
The day after the shooting, Anthony was arrested on suspicion of murder but was released the following day.
In a controversial ruling, District Attorney Brooke Jenkins said that Anthony was in “mortal danger” and “acted in self-defense,” and therefore would not be charged.
“At this time there is nothing to rebut his statements regarding the fact that he acted in self-defense,” said Jenkins. “It was our conclusion that we did not have such evidence and that is why we have arrived at this decision at this time.”
Jenkins released a report on Monday explaining that there was “insufficient evidence” that Anthony’s actions justified a murder or manslaughter charge. The DA also encouraged the public to consider all the evidence before jumping to a conclusion about the case.
“While I understand as a resident you would say well just let the jury decide, that is not the standard for charging we have to believe at the time that we charge a case that a jury of 12 will convict, not let’s just charge the case and see what happens,” Jenkins said.
San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin, however, was troubled by the evidence he was presented with.
Speaking about the security footage, Peskin said, “There’s distance between them, Banko Brown is unarmed, Banko Brown is outside of the store.”
“I am personally asking both CA’s Attorney General as well as the US Department of Justice to review the evidence in this case,” he added. “This is not who we are, stealing a bag of candy does not warrant death.”
San Francisco Supervisor Shamann Walton joined Peskin’s condemnation of Jenkins’ decision and shared his own perspective of the events shown in the security footage.
“I have watched the video several times, Banko Brown was clearly walking backwards, after being thrown to the ground, punched, and abused by the security guard for several seconds,” said Walton. “The security guard successfully subdues Banko and lets him go. Banko walks backwards and is executed.”
“The security guard had the upper hand the entire time and even told Banko that he was letting him go as stated in the transcript by the DA. Where is the perceived threat? DA Jenkins’ decision to not charge gives every armed security guard in San Francisco a license to have an open season to shoot and kill black and transgender people for alleged shoplifting.”