SF supes pass firearms ordinance inspired by Banko Brown case

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday October 18, 2023
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The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has approved an ordinance limiting when armed security guards can draw their weapons, which came about as a result of the shooting death of Banko Brown by a Walgreens security guard.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has approved an ordinance limiting when armed security guards can draw their weapons, which came about as a result of the shooting death of Banko Brown by a Walgreens security guard.

The shooting death of unarmed Black trans man Banko Brown by an armed guard has led the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to pass an ordinance limiting security personnel from drawing their weapons.

The supervisors approved an amendment to the police code prohibiting armed security guards from drawing or exhibiting firearms to protect property. The weapons may be in a holster.

The legislation was introduced by District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston, who represents the Tenderloin, Western Addition, and Haight neighborhoods, after the killing of Brown, a 24-year-old unarmed and unhoused Black trans man, by a security guard at a Market Street Walgreens earlier this year.

"Seeing no names on the roster, same house, same call, the ordinance is passed on first reading," board President Aaron Peskin said October 17, before calling the next item.

The ordinance needs a final vote next week.

The city's police code had heretofore been more permissive than state law, which only allows guns to be drawn in cases of imminent threats to human life.

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 into her decision from the office of California Attorney General Rob Bonta, as the Bay Area Reporter previously reported. (Bonta's office did not immediately return a request for comment for this report.)

It also led to a lawsuit from Brown's family, who sued Anthony, Walgreens, and Kingdom Group Protective Services, as the B.A.R. previously reported.

Longtime civil rights attorney John Burris, who is representing the family, told the B.A.R., "I think it's a terrific decision."

"It's terrific," he said. "If it had been enacted beforehand, our young person would not be dead. Better late than never. There are issues around crime, no doubt about it, but security guards should not be able to use deadly force in situations when a police officer can't use deadly force."

After Brown's death, Preston pledged to introduce the legislation.

"I am grateful that the board has taken this important step forward in ensuring that the people of San Francisco will be placed above property," Preston stated in a news release after the vote. "We should be doing everything in our power to prevent something like the killing of Banko Brown from happening again."

Geoffrea Morris, founder of Black Women Revolt Against Domestic Violence, thanked the board for its passage.

"The law has always placed a higher value upon human safety than upon mere property," she stated in the release. "The passage of today's legislation just reaffirms that Banko Brown's life was greater than any alleged property he was accused of stealing."

Brown's death happened in District 6, represented by gay Supervisor Matt Dorsey. Dorsey had expressed support for removing property from among the reasons security guards could draw weapons.

Dorsey, who served as SFPD Chief William Scott's communications director before joining the Board of Supervisors, told the B.A.R. that the ordinance is a "worthwhile update" to the law.

"One of the things I pointed out is what Supervisor Preston is endeavoring to do is put the rules for security guards in line with the rules for police officers," he said. "One of the rules of the San Francisco Police Department is that guns should be drawn only in circumstances where there's a threat to life, safety. For me it makes no sense to have more liberal rules for drawing or pointing a firearm for property crime than it would for a police officer."

Updated, 10/18/23: This article has been updated with comments from attorney John Burris and SF Supervisor Matt Dorsey.

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