Civil rights attorney John Burris Tuesday filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the family of a San Francisco man who was killed by a rookie officer earlier this month as he attempted to flee police in a shooting Burris described as “premeditated murder.”
Burris today said 42-year-old Keita O’Neil was unarmed and not confronting or even looking toward officers at the time he was shot on Dec. 1 by Officer Christopher Samayoa, who had been on the force for only four days.
Samayoa, who was in the passenger seat of a patrol car that was pursuing O’Neil in a stolen vehicle after a 10:30 a.m. carjacking, had his gun out and was aiming at O’Neil before the patrol car came to a halt, body camera footage released by the Police Department shows.
He fired at O’Neil’s head through the vehicle window as he fled past on foot without giving any commands or warnings, and without any sign of a threat from O’Neil, who was unarmed and running past the police vehicle, Burris said.
The bullet struck O’Neil just above the collarbone on the right side. He was transported to San Francisco General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
“In my mind this is premeditated, deliberate murder.”
Samayoa was under the direct supervision of a training officer at the time of the shooting, and Burris said that officer, who he identified today as Officer Edric Talusan, should also be held accountable. The civil rights and wrongful death lawsuit alleges inadequate training and supervision by the San Francisco Police Department.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of O’Neil’s mother Judy O’Neil, who is bedridden. Keita was her only child and her primary caregiver, Burris said.
Charlie Grayson, Keita O’Neil’s father, read a statement from Judy O’Neil Tuesday that expressed “great warmth” and love for her son:
“I am wishing each time I look up I will be able to feel you watching over me. Until that time comes for me to be by your side, me and Charlie and your friends and family, we miss you.”
Grayson added, who paused to wipe away tears as he read the statement:
“We’re all going to miss him. … It’s pretty quiet around here.”
The incident that led to Keita O’Neil’s death began around 10:30 a.m. with a report of a robbery and carjacking in the 1800 block of 23rd Street.
O’Neil allegedly assaulted a California State Lottery employee, grabbed her car keys and drove away in a van full of lottery tickets.
Police pursued the van and a second vehicle, described as a gold or tan SUV, that was at the scene and was seen driving away with the van.
One group of officers stopped the SUV in the area of Gilman Avenue and Ingalls Street and detained four people inside, according to police.
Samayoa and Talusan pursued the Lottery van, which was being driven by O’Neil, to Fitzgerald Avenue and Griffith Street, where O’Neil got out of the van while it was still rolling slightly.
He ran past the officer’s patrol car, at which point Samayoa fired at him from inside the vehicle, shattering the glass.
The officer who fired his weapon activated his body-worn camera in time to show his gun coming out and the shot being fired through the window at O’Neil in the space of seconds.
The training officer did not activate his body-worn camera during the incident and did not fire his weapon, according to police.
San Francisco City Attorney Office’s spokesman John Cote said the office had just received the lawsuit and attorneys are reviewing it. The incident itself remains under investigation by multiple agencies.
“What we do know is that at the time of the incident, the decedent was driving a van that had been carjacked, the driver of the van had been assaulted during the carjacking, and the decedent was leading the police on a high-speed chase. … The lawsuit admits that when the decedent finally stopped the van, he got out and ran toward the police car.”