Rachel Marshall / 415-416-4468 / Rachel.Marshall@sfgov.org
Deputy Director of Communications / Assistant District Attorney
Today, San Francisco District Attorney Boudin announced homicides charges against San Francisco Police Department Officer Kenneth Cha, who shot Sean Moore on January 6, 2017, causing his death three years later. Following a careful review of the case, the District Attorney’s Office presented an affidavit and supporting evidence to a judge, who reviewed it and issued a warrant for Kenneth Cha’s arrest. This morning the District Attorney’s Office announced charges of Voluntary Manslaughter (Penal Code Section 192(a) and Assault with a Semi-automatic Firearm (Penal Code Section 245(b), along with enhancements for personal use of a firearm (Penal Code Section 12022.5(b)) and infliction of great bodily injury (Penal Code Section 12022.7(a)) against him. The case is the second homicide prosecution against an on-duty law enforcement officer in San Francisco history.
“We rely on officers to follow their training and to deescalate situations; instead, in just eight minutes, Officer Cha elevated a nonviolent encounter to one that took Sean Moore’s life. Sean Moore was unarmed and at his own home when Officer Cha shot him twice,” said District Attorney Boudin. “After a thorough investigation, my office is holding Officer Cha accountable for the death of Sean Moore, whom he lacked a lawful basis to even arrest. When officers inflict unwarranted violence in flagrant disregard of their training, it denigrates the hard work of other police officers and shatters the trust our community places in law enforcement. Rebuilding that trust requires us to hold those officers who inflict unlawful violence accountable.”
The Alleged Incident
In the early morning of January 6, 2017, San Francisco Police Department Officers Kenneth Cha and Colin Patino responded to Sean Moore’s San Francisco home following a report by a neighbor that Mr. Moore was violating a temporary restraining order that prohibited noise harassment. Officer Patino quickly spoke with and received a copy of the restraining order papers from the neighbor, who did not request a citizen’s arrest of Mr. Moore.
Body worn camera footage captured the encounter between Officers Cha and Patino and Mr. Moore. Mr. Moore’s home was up a flight of narrow outdoor stairs, which the officers ascended three separate times during their encounter with him.
When the officers first arrived at his door, Mr. Moore let them know he did not want to speak to them and repeatedly instructed them to get off his stairs. Mr. Moore denied harassing his neighbor, indicated he knew about the order, and explained that he had not been violating it as he had just been sweeping his stairs and removing his trash.
Instead, it is alleged that the officers refused to leave Mr. Moore’s property despite his repeated demands, and shone their flashlights from the bottom of the steps. Both officers came up Mr. Moore’s steps a second time, ignoring his instructions to leave, and Officer Cha pepper sprayed Mr. Moore, inadvertently spraying Officer Patino as well. Mr. Moore continued to demand that the officers leave, and picked up the restraining order papers dropped by Officer Patino after Patino had been inadvertently pepper-sprayed by Cha. Both officers went down the stairs.
After Officer Patino demanded that Mr. Moore return the papers, Mr. Moore came out of his home, but remained behind his security gate, and dropped the papers through the gate down the stairs and returned inside. The officers continued to order Mr. Moore outside, telling him he was under arrest, and Officer Cha threatened to kick in the gate if Mr. Moore did not come outside on his own. Mr. Moore came outside his home behind the security gate and informed the officers that he needed medical attention.
As Officer Patino began heading up the steps again, Mr. Moore opened his security gate and, using profanity, indicated he would remove Officer Patino from his home if he did not leave. Mr. Moore then began heading down the steps to retrieve an item he dropped. Both officers ran up the stairs a third time with their batons raised. As Mr. Moore began retreating backwards up the steps toward his home, Officer Patino hit him with his metal baton. Mr. Moore struck back, and Officer Patino fell down the stairs. Officer Cha drew his gun, pointed it at Mr. Moore and ran up the steps towards Mr. Moore, who reacted by kicking in the direction of Officer Cha.
Officer Cha shot Mr. Moore twice in the abdomen. The officers had been on the scene just eight minutes.
The gunshots lacerated Mr. Moore’s liver and struck his right colon, scarring internal organs and causing severe abdominal adhesions. Mr. Moore died on January 20, 202o; the coroners’ report indicated the cause of death was homicide and that he died from Acute Intestinal Obstruction as a result of the bullet wounds.
Three Separate Courts Have Previously Held that the Officers Acted Unlawfully in Using Force Against Mr. Moore
Mr. Moore had previously been charged with eight counts based on the January 6, 2017 incident in which he was shot. Those charges were dismissed by the San Francisco Superior Court for lacking probable cause, and an appellate court affirmed the court’s decision. Later, a federal court cited that appellate decision as well in finding that officers acted unlawfully when they went up Mr. Moore’s stairs the second and third times.
The courts reviewing the criminal case against Mr. Moore held that Officers Cha and Patino were not acting lawfully as officers when they used pepper spray, batons, and when Officer Cha shot Mr. Moore. Neither Officer Cha nor Patino had observed Mr. Moore commit any illegal act. They had not been asked to conduct a citizen’s arrest. The courts found that the officers’ lawful duties had concluded once they had first gone up the stairs; at that point their investigation had concluded as Mr. Moore had identified himself, acknowledged that he knew about the restraining order and explained he had not violated it by taking out the garbage. Accordingly, the officers had no basis to continue to remain on Mr. Moore’s property or to use force against him.
As a result, the Superior Court dismissed all eight charges against Mr. Moore. The First District Appellate Court affirmed that finding in 2018, agreeing that both officers were not acting lawfully and were in fact criminally trespassing when they came up the stairs the second and third times. Mr. Moore had the right to use force to get the officers to leave when they refused. Accordingly, there was no basis for Officer Cha to shoot Mr. Moore.
In granting summary judgment in the civil case filed by Mr. Moore’s family in federal court, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California cited the First District Appellate Court decision in finding that the officers were not lawfully performing their duties when they went up the stairs the second and third times.
Earlier this year, the city of San Francisco settled the lawsuit filed by Mr. Moore’s family for $3.25 million—the largest settlement of its kind in recent history.
Reaction to the Announcement
The family of Sean Moore reacted emotionally to the news. Mrs. Cleo Moore, Sean Moore’s mother, was crying as she learned of the announcement. She explained that she is “very happy” that Officer Cha is going to be held accountable for her son’s killing and explained that she believes he was criminalized due to his mental health needs, which led to the shooting.
The announcement was also praised by criminal justice reform leaders, civil rights activists and police accountability advocates.
“From Minneapolis to Danville to Los Angeles to San Francisco, officers who kill must be held accountable,” said Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of Black Lives Matter; artist; educator; and advocate for civil rights and mental health care. “Yet it still remains rare for police to be prosecuted for inflicting violence against unarmed Black and Brown people—even in cases like this one, where multiple courts have already ruled that officers were violating the law when they refused to leave Sean Moore’s property. I commend District Attorney Boudin’s courage to do what is right to ensure that police officers are not free to act with impunity in San Francisco—or anywhere else.”
“The shooting of Sean Moore, an unarmed Black man, by San Francisco police is yet another example of unlawful use of deadly force that, according to the Marin County’s coroner’s office, led to Mr. Moore’s untimely death. Police officers in San Francisco and throughout the nation continue to escalate situations that call for de-escalation and the intervention of mental health clinicians,” said Yoel Y. Haile, Director Criminal Justice Program, ACLU of Northern California. “We commend District Attorney Boudin’s continued effort to hold police officers accountable for criminal behavior. But Mr. Moore’s death is also a searing indictment of the entire carceral system, one that responds to mental health disorders with criminalization and incarceration instead of with treatment and compassion.”
Longtime police reform advocate and retired police practices expert John Crew emphasized the significance of the decision in ensuring that police policies are enforced. “Just weeks prior to this shocking display of escalation by officers investigating a noise complaint, the San Francisco Police Commission had formally adopted its well-publicized mandatory de-escalation policy,” he said. “Policies and laws must be treated as more than just words on paper; they must be enforced. I am pleased that District Attorney Boudin is holding Officer Cha accountable for this egregious example of excessive use of force—which took Sean Moore’s life.”