Bonta defends decision in Banko Brown case

  • by Cynthia Laird, News Editor
  • Thursday June 20, 2024
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California Attorney General Rob Bonta unveiled his office's second annual "State of Pride Report" Thursday and took questions from LGBTQ reporters on a Zoom call. Photo: AP file
California Attorney General Rob Bonta unveiled his office's second annual "State of Pride Report" Thursday and took questions from LGBTQ reporters on a Zoom call. Photo: AP file

California Attorney General Rob Bonta on Thursday defended his office's decision that found San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins did not abuse her discretion in deciding not to prosecute a former Walgreens security guard in the shooting of an unarmed trans man last year.

Bonta said that state Department of Justice investigators did "review all information available" in the case. That included the store video that showed Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony fatally shoot Banko Brown April 27, 2023, at the Walgreens located at 825 Market Street in downtown San Francisco.

Brown, 24, was killed after allegedly attempting to shoplift $15 worth of candy. Anthony, the security guard, was contracted by Walgreens through Kingdom Group. The Bay Area Reporter asked Bonta about his office's decision regarding the case during a June 20 Zoom call with other LGBTQ journalists ahead of the release of his office's second annual "State of Pride Report."

Anthony had been arrested on suspicion of homicide but Jenkins declined to file charges because she claimed Anthony acted in self-defense. Her decision set off an uproar in the LGBTQ community and among local officials. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors asked federal and state officials to investigate. The U.S. Department of Justice deferred to the state attorney general's office.

Earlier this month, the supervisors received a letter from Bonta's office stating its investigation found Jenkins did not abuse her prosecutorial discretion, as the B.A.R. previously reported.

"A broad range of discretion rests in a DA," Bonta said in response to the B.A.R.'s question. "Our standard is to look at that and [we] found no abuse of discretion.

"It's important we have that role of oversight and review," Bonta added.

Jenkins had issued a statement earlier this month in response to the letter, defending her decision not to charge in the case.

"Banko Brown's death deeply impacted me and our city," she stated. "While I wish this tragedy would have never happened in the first place, my office and I carefully reviewed all of the facts and evidence available and followed the law in making our decision to not charge the suspect in this case. We take our prosecutorial responsibilities seriously and recognize how important it is that we make decisions on facts, law and our collective prosecutorial judgment, without being swayed by politics."

School districts

During the Zoom call Bonta also discussed forced outing policies that several school boards across the state have adopted and his office's work in ensuring that LGBTQ+ students are safe. Bonta and his office are currently focused on the Chino Valley Unified School District, where the AG's office has taken legal action.

The state won a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction against two parts of the district's policy, as the B.A.R. reported.

"It's still hot as an issue," Bonta said, referring to school district policies that force staff to out transgender students to their parents without their consent.

And while Bonta said Chino Valley changed its policy due to the legal action, officials there "remain proud of their policy and they continue to make anti-trans statements."

Andi Johnston, a spokesperson for the Chino Valley school district, replied to a request for comment noting the board had voted March 7 to delete the parent notification policy that Bonta had filed the lawsuit over.

"It would be helpful for AG Bonta to cite specific examples of recent 'anti-trans statements' that he is alleging CVUSD board members have made," Johnston wrote.

Bonta said his office is awaiting a final court decision "that could be helpful statewide."

"We've shared with the court other policies. We need an order statewide that enjoins such policies from being implemented," he said.

"I think it was a targeted agenda that came with it," Bonta said of the election of conservative anti-LGBTQ school board members. "We're seeing communities responding with recalls."

Bonta said that his office "can't control what happens on the political side" in school board elections and noted that the makeup of school boards will change. Recently, Joseph Komrosky, the president of the Temecula Valley Unified School District board in Southern California, was recalled by voters. That district also adopted a forced outing policy.

On July 2 residents in the East Bay town of Sunol will vote on recalling two school board members over the adoption of a policy that prohibits the Pride flag from being flown.

"I will steadfastly and aggressively defend the dignity and humanity of the LGBTQ+ community," Bonta said.

He pointed out that a lot of the anti-LGBTQ issues are happening in conservative areas of the state.

"A lot of this is happening in red counties," he said. "And there are LGBTQ+ students and community members in those red counties that need protecting."

AG's report

The state Department of Justice's second "State of Pride Report" noted that there are 2.8 million LGBTQ+ people living in California, according to figures from the Public Policy Institute of California.

"As this report makes clear, homophobia and transphobia can all-too-easily morph into something even more dangerous," Bonta writes in his message introducing the report. "For the second year in a row, hate crimes against California's LGBTQ+ community have increased. Between 2022 and 2023, there were 405 reported hate crimes events motivated by sexual orientation bias, an increase of 4.1% from the previous year; 76 hate crimes motivated by anti-transgender or anti-gender-nonconforming bias, an increase of 7% from the previous year; and 151 hate crime events motivated by anti-LGBTQ+ bias, an increase of 86.4% from the previous year. This rise of hate is unacceptable, and we will not stand for it."

The report includes information on hate crimes and hate incidents.

"A hate crime is a crime against a person, group, or property motivated by the victim's real or perceived protected social group," the report states. "You may be the victim of a hate crime if you have been targeted because of your actual or perceived: (1) disability, (2) gender, (3) nationality, (4) race or ethnicity, (5) religion, (6) sexual orientation, and/or (7) association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics. Hate crimes are serious crimes that may result in imprisonment or jail time.

"A hate incident is an action or behavior motivated by hate but which, for one or more reasons, is not a crime," the report states. "Examples of hate incidents include: name-calling, insults, displaying hate material on one's own property, posting hate material that does not result in property damage, or distribution of materials with hate messages in public places."

If someone has been a victim of a hate crime, they should contact local law enforcement, the report advises. But people can also utilize information on the attorney general's website at

Additionally, the state has implemented its Stop the Hate program that offers resources for victims or witnesses. Information is available at

Bonta, who is reportedly eying a gubernatorial bid in 2026, said that he will continue to fight for the LGBTQ+ community.

"We will work to combat the terrifying rise in hate crimes using the full force of our office," he said, "and ensuring members of the LGBTQ+ community know their rights."

To read the attorney general's report, click here.

Updated, 6/21/24: This article has been updated with comments from the Chino Valley school district.

The State of California offers help for victims or witnesses to a hate crime or hate incident. This resource is supported in whole or in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.

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