In a controversial incident, a Walgreens security officer fatally shot and killed Banko Brown, a 24-year-old trans man who was accused of stealing. The San Francisco district attorney’s office recently released CCTV footage capturing the tragic moment. District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, after reviewing the evidence, decided not to prosecute the guard, Michael Ear-Wayne Anthony, stating that the video demonstrates he acted appropriately in self-defense. However, this verdict has sparked outrage among many community members who argue that the footage clearly shows Brown moving away as Anthony fired a shot into his chest.
The video depicts Anthony intercepting Brown as he attempts to escape the store. A physical altercation ensues, with Anthony forcefully subduing Brown by repeatedly punching him and pinning him down. Eventually, Anthony lets Brown go, and as Brown appears to retreat, Anthony shoots him. While a witness claims that Brown was in a “fighting stance,” those who have analyzed the video assert that Brown did not pose a threat. According to another witness, Brown spat at Anthony, and the “spit, flinch, and shot all seemed to happen at the same time.”
Anthony claimed that Brown had regularly threatened to stab him, although no knife was ever produced. After shooting Brown, Anthony expressed remorse, uttering phrases like “Dammit” and “Sorry man, that shouldn’t have happened.” “I was a moron,” he acknowledged, according to a report from the District Attorney’s office.
Jenkins faced criticism from Julia Arroyo, co-executive director of the Young Woman’s Freedom Center, where Brown worked as a community organizer. Arroyo condemned Jenkins’ “tough on crime” attitude, accusing her of prioritizing the interests of corporations over communities of color and emphasizing the need to hold Jenkins accountable for justice in Brown’s case.
Rebecca Young, a former public defender, expressed concern over the dangerous precedent set by Jenkins’ decision. She warned that arming stores with the authority to use armed force would likely result in more tragedies, particularly in a city like San Francisco where many individuals are forced to make desperate choices to meet their basic needs. Young believed that Anthony escalated the situation rather than seeking resolution and that excessive force by security guards endangers everyone involved.
According to Anthony, Brown stole “some beverages and a few snacks.” People who knew Brown believe that hunger likely motivated his actions. The Freedom Center revealed that Brown had been grappling with housing instability for over a decade and argued that he was criminalized and lost his life due to the City’s failure to adequately address the needs of young people in vulnerable situations.
Nevertheless, the district attorney’s investigation concluded that Anthony acted in lawful self-defense and had a reasonable fear of great bodily harm or death. The report stated that Brown transformed a simple theft into a robbery when he used physical force to take property without paying.
In response to the decision, protests have erupted in Brown’s memory, led by his loved ones and activists. Human rights attorney John Burris informed the San Francisco Chronicle that Brown’s family plans to file a lawsuit against both Anthony and Walgreens.
The tragic incident has sparked a broader debate about the use of force by security personnel and the potential consequences of empowering them to engage in armed encounters. Many are questioning the appropriateness of Anthony’s actions and expressing concern about the implications for public safety, particularly in communities already facing systemic challenges.
As the community continues to grapple with the loss of Banko Brown, calls for justice persist, demanding a thorough examination of the circumstances surrounding his death and an evaluation of the protocols and accountability mechanisms in place to prevent similar tragedies in the future.