SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A former San Francisco police officer charged in connection with a fatal 2017 officer-involved shooting on Monday pleaded not guilty, according to authorities.
Former SFPD Officer Christopher Samoyoa appeared virtually in a San Francisco courtroom to plead not guilty to multiple charges.
“As this case progresses, the court, perhaps even the DA, certainly a jury, will see that Chris Samayoa, a native San Franciscan, is not a reckless, cavalier trigger-happy rookie,” Samayoa’s attorney Julia Fox said in an email. “Rather, he is a thoughtful and measured young man who acted by drawing from his training and whose only aspiration was and remains a desire to serve his San Francisco community.”
Last month, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin announced the charges — including homicide, voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, assault by an executive officer, assault with a semi-automatic firearm and neglectful discharge of a firearm. It marked the first time the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office has filed homicide charges against a law enforcement officer.
Boudin, who promised to crackdown on any police misconduct during his campaign for office, didn’t mince words when announcing the charges against the former rookie officer at the Nov. 23 news conference.
“In San Francisco there has been a long history of officer-involved shootings leading to no accountability whatsoever,” Boudin said. “Further cementing the idea that police are above the law. That stops today. Earlier this morning my office has filed homicide charges against former San Francisco police department officer Chris Samayoa for his 2017 killing of Keita O’Neil.”
The shooting occurred on the morning of Dec. 1. 2017. Samayo, a rookie who was on his fourth day on the job, and his training officer were among those who responded to a report of a robbery and carjacking on the 1800 block of 23rd Street.
A California Lottery white minivan was carjacked outside a corner store at 23rd and Arkansas Street. The woman driving the lottery vehicle was assaulted and suffered non-life threatening injuries.
Another vehicle described as a gold SUV was seen in the area and police believe was involved in the carjacking. The two vehicles were seen traveling together in the Bayview district and police stopped the older model GMC Yukon SUV at the corner of Ingalls and Gilman where four occupants were detained.
The lottery van continued and was chased into a dead-end corner of Fitzgerald Ave. and Griffith St., outside the Alice Griffith housing complex.
Samayoa, who was in the passenger seat of a patrol car that was pursuing O’Neil in the stolen van, had his gun out and was aiming at O’Neil before the patrol car came to a halt, body camera footage released by the Police Department showed.
As O’Neil ran past the officer’s patrol car, Samayoa fired at him from inside the vehicle, shattering the glass. He then fired at an unarmed O’Neil through the car’s window, striking him once.
The bullet struck O’Neil just above the collarbone on the right side. He was transported to San Francisco General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
“Mr. O’Neil had no weapons, he was unarmed,” Boudin said. “Body camera footage from other officers shows that not a single other officer pulled out their service weapon or pointed it at Mr. O’Neil. As a result of Officer Samayoa’s terrible, tragic and unlawful decision that day…Mr. O’Neil was killed.”
After a three-month investigation, Samayoa was fired from the department, but there was a public outcry for further action by the district attorney’s office.
The family of O’Neil filed suit against the SFPD for the fatal shooting two weeks after it happened.
Earlier this month, a grand jury indicted Officer Christopher Flores on felony charges in connection with a 2019 Mission District officer-involved shooting that left a man in critical condition. Prosecutors also charged Officer Terrance Stangel with battery and assault in connection with an October 2019 encounter in the city’s Fisherman’s Wharf area that left a man with a broken leg and wrist.
Samoya is scheduled to be back in court in February.