AG mum on Brown inquiry, but big announcement in Monterrosa case

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday December 19, 2023
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Attorney General Rob Bonta's office has offered no timetable on when its review of the Banko Brown killing will be completed.
Attorney General Rob Bonta's office has offered no timetable on when its review of the Banko Brown killing will be completed.

The California Attorney General's office has "no updates to share" on its investigation into the killing of Banko Brown, the 24-year-old unarmed and unhoused Black trans man shot dead by a security guard at a San Francisco Walgreens earlier this year, all but assuring that the inquiry will go into its second calendar year.

This as the office announces its conclusions in the death of Sean Monterrosa, who as the Bay Area Reporter previously reported was a 22-year-old man killed by Vallejo police responding to a reported looting at a Walgreens in the Solano County city. It came shortly after the 2020 murder of another Black man, George Floyd, by a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The state AG's report concluded that there was insufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against the Vallejo police officer involved in the Monterrosa case.

Brown was killed April 27 after allegedly attempting to shoplift $15 worth of candy. A video appears to show Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony, a security guard employed by Kingdom Group Protective Services, shooting Brown as he was leaving the Walgreens at 825 Market Street around 6:30 p.m. Anthony was arrested on suspicion of homicide.

But San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins decided not to file criminal charges against Anthony, citing self-defense.

Announcing her decision in a May 1 statement, Jenkins explained that the evidence in the case at the time "does not meet the people's burden to be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury that the suspect is guilty of a crime. The evidence clearly shows that the suspect believed he was in mortal danger and acted in self-defense."

That decision prompted an outcry in the city, and led to an inquiry from the office of California Attorney General Rob Bonta, as the B.A.R. reported. On December 12, a spokesperson for the attorney general's office stated that "the review remains ongoing and we have no updates to share at this point."

When asked by the B.A.R. when the report might be finished, the spokesperson stated "that's all the information that we can provide at this time, but happy to keep you in the loop should updates become available."

John Burris, the legendary 78-year-old civil rights attorney, is representing the Brown family in a suit against Walgreens, Kingdom Group, and Anthony, as the B.A.R. previously reported. He seemed nonplussed by the lack of a timetable from Bonta's office when reached by phone December 19.

"I'm not following too closely the attorney general's investigation," Burris said. "Our case is going along. We're in court working the case through."

When asked if there's an estimated time a trial might start, Burris said the case is not yet at that point.

"We got to get all the parties, that's the big portion we have to deal with — who are all the responsible parties? There's Walgreens, another Walgreens company that's involved, we had to get the parent company for the security company, we had the security company, the shooter — but it turns out that Walgreens contracts with someone else and that contractor hired this company. We got to get them all — it's going to take some time."

Brown's killing led to changes in the city's police code. As the B.A.R. previously reported, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance in October limiting security personnel from drawing their weapons.

Walgreens declined to comment for this report. Kingdom Group and the Young Women's Freedom Center (where Brown had worked) did not return requests for comment.

AG finishes Monterrosa killing investigation

Bonta announced Tuesday that the state justice department has concluded its investigation into the killing of Monterrosa on June 2, 2020.

Bonta in 2021 had called for the independent review to determine if criminal charges were warranted against the Vallejo police officer, Jarrett Tonn, who shot Monterrosa through the windshield of an unmarked police vehicle, according to KRON-TV.

But Bonta's office determined that "there is insufficient evidence to support criminal charges against the involved officer," according to a news release December 19.

"Sean Monterrosa's life mattered and there is nothing that can make up for his death. His loss is and will continue to be felt by his family and the Bay Area community," Bonta stated. "It's critical that these difficult incidents undergo a transparent, fair, and thorough review. My office remains committed to doing everything in our power to prevent these kinds of incidents from occurring and putting forward policy solutions to help ensure law enforcement are responsive to the needs of their communities.

"To that end, we recently negotiated a civil stipulated judgment with the Vallejo Police Department to institute crucially necessary reforms to their policies and practices," Bonta added. "Public safety and accountability requires trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. My office is working to build that trust through transparency and working to improve police practices."

Monterrosa was a San Francisco native and his killing, coming as it did during the national reckoning over policing in mid-2020, sparked protests throughout the Bay Area. His sisters did not return a request for comment by press time.

Updated, 12/20/23: This article has been updated with the fact that Walgreens declined to comment.

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