Family of Banko Brown sues Walgreens, security company and guard for wrongful death, attorney says

ByCheri Mossburg and Steve Almasy, CNNWire
Saturday, May 27, 2023
Family of Banko Brown sues Walgreens: attorney
The family of Banko Brown, a man shot and killed by a security guard at a San Francisco Walgreens, filed a wrongful death lawsuit, an attorney said.

SAN FRANCISCO -- The attorney for Banko Brown's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Walgreens, the security guard involved in the shooting, as well as the company the security guard is employed with on Friday.

Brown's parents are suing Walgreens, where the fatal shooting took place; private security company Kingdom Protective Services; and security guard Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony. John Burris, the Browns' attorney, told reporters they are seeking at least $25 million in damages.

"So, we made this lawsuit against all three of them, made a demand that's greater than $25 million. And that relatively a number I wouldn't say the highest number, but it's also the message that has to be sent," he said.

Brown was shot and killed by a Walgreens security guard last month after he was allegedly shoplifting.

"This is a young person ... whose life was taken unnecessarily ... as a consequence of what Walgreens did by putting in place policies that caused this security officer to think for whatever reason that he could shoot and kill a person over petty theft," Burris said.

Dramatic surveillance video shows a scuffle between Brown and the store's security guard.

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San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins announced she will not file charges against the person who shot and killed a man inside a Walgreens.

The killing and lack of criminal charges spurred protests in San Francisco, with demonstrators marching to demand justice for Brown, amid a larger debate over criminal justice, viral smash-and-grab thefts, and homelessness in the city.

The lawsuit claims Anthony "shot and killed Mr. Brown at least in part because of his frustration with people other than Mr. Brown shoplifting or committing petty theft crimes in his presence."

At the news conference, Brown family attorney Ben Nisenbaum said Brown was "only responsible for potentially shoplifting the $16 of candy that apparently was in (his) bag."

Brown's parents attended the news conference but did not speak. Burris said they want the security guard to face murder charges.

The filing states Anthony was following a new directive by the store and its security company to "forcibly detain suspected shoplifters," a move the suit says changed "longstanding security policies of avoiding escalating confrontations with people suspected of minor property crimes into potentially lethal force encounters."

RELATED: Video shows moment SF Walgreens security guard learned Banko Brown died after shooting

In an interview with police, San Francisco Walgreens security guard Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony describes what led to the Banko Brown shooting.

Walgreens declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Kingdom Group Protective Services, which provided officers in the store, did not weigh in on the lawsuit specifically, but released a statement saying, "We are fully cooperating with law enforcement in the investigation of this extremely unfortunate incident and are deeply saddened by the loss of Banko Brown's life. At this time, we are not permitted to comment further."

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According to the lawsuit, "Defendant Anthony's killing of the unarmed Mr. Brown shocks the conscience. It was the rash, angry reaction of someone frustrated by the demands of his job, taking it out on Mr. Brown in the worst, most violent way possible."

Witnesses that were interviewed by the District Attorney, which decided not to file charges against Anthony, said they heard Brown tell Anthony that, "I'll fight you on the sidewalk," the lawsuit says. "No witness reported any threat by Mr. Brown to use any weapon, and Mr. Brown was unarmed," it added.

Brown and Anthony continued to argue as Brown backed toward the store's exit, the lawsuit says. "Mr. Brown paused, pointed with right hand toward Defendant Anthony's face and momentarily flexed his chest toward Defendant Anthony, but did not touch him," the lawsuit continues. "No one could reasonably believe Mr. Brown was trying to strike Defendant Anthony."

An armed security guard must weigh the value of what they are trying to protect with the need for deadly force, Burris told reporters.

RELATED: California AG to review SF DA's decision to not charge guard in Walgreens shooting

At the moment of the shooting, Anthony's life was not in danger, he said. The security officer could have walked away or de-escalated the situation, the attorney added.

Brown repeatedly threatened to stab Anthony before the shooting, according to a report from the DA's office released last week. Police didn't find a knife in Brown's possession, the report states, but prosecutors still determined his fear was reasonable.

"Given the totality of the circumstances, including the threat that Anthony believed, and could reasonably believe, the evidence shows that Brown's shooting was not a criminal act because Anthony acted in lawful self-defense," the report states. "Thus, Anthony is not criminally liable for the death of Brown."

The report also mentions the policy change for security guards, saying it was "recently" initiated by the security company.

"On April 27, 2023, the instructions to guard personnel was to engage in "hands-on" recovery of merchandise," the report states. The guards were also allowed to request receipts for merchandise, but in any event they were to actively work to retrieve or recover any stolen items once it was clear that the individual who concealed the items intended to leave the store without paying."

KGO-TV staff contributed to this report

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