A former rookie San Francisco police officer who was on his fourth day on the job when he fatally shot an unarmed carjacking suspect in 2017 has been charged with manslaughter, the city’s top prosecutor announced Monday. District Attorney Chesa Boudin said it marked the first time a San Francisco law enforcement officer has been charged with a homicide while on duty.
Christopher Samayoa was charged with voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, assault by an executive officer, assault with a semi automatic firearm and negligent discharge of a firearm in the killing of 42-year-old Keita O’Neil, Boudin said.
Boudin called the decision to file charges “historic.”
“As far as we are aware, this is the first ever time that the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office has filed homicide charges against a law enforcement officer for a homicide while on duty,” Boudin said at a news conference.
It wasn’t immediately known if Samayoa has an attorney. The District Attorney’s Office and the Police Officers Association union did not immediately return messages seeking information about Samayoa’s legal representation and who could comment on his behalf.
Samayoa’s firing had generated outrage from the police officer union, which said previously he was fired for doing what he was trained to do.
The organization said Monday it will support Samayoa during the legal process.
“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,” Tony Montoya, president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, said in a statement.
His firing came three months after he fatally shot O’Neil on Dec. 1, 2017.
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 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, police have said.
The footage shows Samayoa drawing his pistol while the cruiser was still moving. The video then shows him open the side door and fire a single shot through the window as O’Neil runs by in the opposite direction. O’Neil was not armed.
The bullet struck O’Neil just above the collarbone on the right side, CBS San Francisco reported. He was transported to San Francisco General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
O’Neil’s family filed suit against the SFPD for the fatal shooting two weeks after it happened.
O’Neil’s relatives were told Monday about the decision to charge the officer and O’Neil’s aunt, April Green, expressed gratitude, Boudin said in a statement.
“I am happy to hear this news, and hoping it brings some justice to our family,” she said, according to the statement.