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San Francisco DA's Office Launches Its 1st Homicide Prosecution Of A Police Officer

San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin announced his office has filed five charges, including voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, against a former police officer who shot and killed a Black man suspected of carjacking a California Lottery minivan three years ago.

"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 during a press conference Monday.

Former San Francisco police officer Chris Samayoa was formally charged with voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, assault with a semiautomatic firearm, assault by a police officer and discharge of a firearm with gross negligence.

Boudin, a former public defender who was sworn in as district attorney earlier this year, called the charges "historic" and vowed to apply the law evenly "no matter what the color of your skin....or whether you wear a uniform to work."

"For far too long we have seen the failure of our legal system to hold police accountable for violence committed against the very members of the public that they have sworn to serve and protect," Boudin added.

The district attorney's office stressed that the case was in its earliest stages and that it expected Samayoa to turn himself in later this week.

Prosecutors do not consider him a flight risk and are not seeking a pre-trial detention of the former officer.

The charges were filed nearly three years to day after the fatal encounter between Samayoa and 42-year-old Keita O'Neil on Dec 1, 2017.

As San Francisco-based NPR member station KQED reports, the charges were filed just before the three-year statue of limitations for several of the alleged crimes was set to expire, including involuntary manslaughter and negligent discharge of a firearm.

An attorney representing the O'Neil family told the station they were bracing for an extended legal battle, but also said, in their opinion, it was "obvious" a crime had been committed against O'Neil.

"It was a very obvious case of criminal activity of a police officer," attorney Melissa Nold told KQED. She is representing the family in a federal civil rights case against Samayoa, training officer Edric Talusan and the city of San Francisco.

"This is step one of a long process for the family, so there's a long way to go," Nold added.

The incident took place after officers Samayoa and Talusan began following O'Neil as he drove the California State Lottery minivan through the San Francisco's Bayview district.

Eventually, O'Neil drove the minivan into a dead end and began to flee officers on foot. City officials said that as other police vehicles closed in, O'Neil's path was blocked and he eventually ran past the patrol vehicle where Samayoa was seated in the passenger seat.

"Officer Samayoa pointed his gun and shot Mr. O'Neil through the passenger side window of the patrol car, killing Mr. O'Neil," the district attorney's office said in a statement.

"Mr. O'Neil had no weapon on him. His cause of death was determined to be a homicide."

According to Boudin's office, Samayoa's bail is expected to be set at $1,000.

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Brakkton Booker is a National Desk reporter based in Washington, DC.