SF District Attorney

SFDA’s Office Declines to File Charges Against Officers in Officer-Involved Shooting Incidents Involving Cesar Vargas and Thomas O’Bannon

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CONTACTS:

Alex Bastian / (415) 314-4848 / Alex.Bastian@sfgov.org 
Rachel Marshall / (415) 416-4468 / Rachel.Marshall@sfgov.org 

SAN FRANCISCO – Today, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin announced the declination to file charges against officers in two officer-involved shooting (“OIS”) incidents from earlier this year.  The decisions come after thorough investigations into each incident by the District Attorney’s Office’s Independent Investigation Bureau (“IIB”), which responded to the scene of both incidents.  Under District Attorney Boudin’s leadership, the District Attorney’s Office has been working diligently to review cases involving officer use of force for possible charging.  In these two instances, the evidence did not support prosecution of any officers involved.  The District Attorney’s Office announces this decision in an effort to as quickly as possible provide this information to community members, officers involved, and law enforcement agencies.

“My office is committed to holding police accountable when they commit a crime as well as to notifying officers who are investigated—and the community at large—as soon as possible when an investigation is complete,” said District Attorney Chesa Boudin.  “My office carefully reviews the specific facts in each case involving officer use-of-force so we can determine when charges are warranted as well as when officers acting under stressful situations behaved lawfully.  In these two incidents the evidence showed that the officers’ use of force was lawful self-defense.”

The most recent incident involved Cesar Vargas, who was killed a as a result of the shooting.  On October 11, 2020, San Francisco Police Department officers responded to the area of Valencia and Market Streets regarding a report of a suspected carjacking with a knife.  After searching the area, they located Mr. Vargas.  Officers exited their patrol cars and attempted to make contact with Mr. Vargas.  Mr. Vargas, who was armed with a knife, began charging at the officers while making threats directed at them.  Two officers, Officer Kyle Roach and Nicholas Delgado, shot and fatally wounded Mr. Vargas as he charged towards them. 

The District Attorney’s Office’s IIB unit responded to the scene.  IIB attorneys and investigators conducted a thorough investigation, including interviewing witnesses and the officers involved and reviewing written reports, surveillance video and police body camera footage.  They determined that the evidence did not support bringing criminal charges against any of the officers involved. 

“This was a tragedy, and we express condolences to Mr. Vargas’s family for their loss,” said Lateef Gray, the head of the District Attorney’s IIB Unit. “Although we recognize that this announcement may bring them pain, we hope that by reporting the results of our investigation quickly and assuring them of the seriousness with which we conducted our investigation, we can bring some closure and provide them space to grieve.”

In the other OIS incident in which the District Attorney’s Office declined to file charges, officers were dispatched on April 21, 2020 to the Pierre Hotel for a report of a person locking himself inside a room in the lobby waving a 2×4 piece of lumber and possibly holding a knife.  When officers arrived, Thomas O’Bannon was present and hit a glass window with the piece of wood and begin to rip at a red fire box on the wall inside of the front office.  Officers attempted to deescalate the situation, including by having a case manager at the hotel talk to Mr. O’Bannon.  These efforts were unsuccessful.  Officers attempted to remove Mr. O’Bannon.  Mr. O’Bannon thrust the 2×4 piece of wood at officers, and officers then used their Extended Range Impact Weapon (ERIW), which did not appear to affect his behavior.  Mr. O’Bannon, while armed with a screwdriver, then charged outside of the lobby in the direction of the officers.  Once outside, Mr. O’Bannon, while still armed with the screwdriver, charged towards an Officer Jordan Townsend, who, while falling backwards, discharged his firearm twice.  Mr. O’Bannon was not struck by either of the bullets.  

Mr. O’Bannon was charged by the District Attorney’s Office after his arrest.  He is currently in Behavioral Health Court, living in a residential program, and has been compliant with the terms of his program.

In this incident, the IIB Unit also responded to the scene and conducted witness interviews, officer interviews, reviewed all written reports, and carefully reviewed surveillance and body camera footage before making its decision.

The announcement of the declination to file charges in these two incidents follows District Attorney Boudin’s recent announcements of prosecutions in two other officer-involved shooting cases.  District Attorney Boudin announced on November 23, 2020 the historic prosecution of former Officer Chris Samayoa, who shot and killed Keita O’Neil in 2017—the first homicide charges against an on-duty officer in San Francisco’s history.  Earlier this week, District Attorney Boudin announced that a grand jury had returned indictments for felony charges against Officer Christopher Flores—who shot Jamaica Hampton in December 2019—as well as Mr. Hampton himself.