Should security guards be armed? Fatal Walgreens shooting sparks conversation in SF

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ByLiz Kreutz KGO logo
Wednesday, May 3, 2023
SF Walgreens shooting sparks conversation about armed security guards
The fatal shooting of 24-year-old Banko Brown at a San Francisco Walgreens is sparking conversation on whether security guards should be armed.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The decision came late Monday night: San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins announced her office is not pursuing murder charges against 33-year-old Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony, the private security guard who fatally shot 24-year-old Banko Brown at a Walgreens last week.

Jenkins said after reviewing video of the incident, witness statements and a statement from the security guard, she does not believe there is sufficient evidence to overcome the security guard's argument that he was acting in self-defense.

"We have an obligation to ensure that when we charge a case, we believe we can prove someone's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In this case, we did not believe we could do so," Jenkins said. "There were issues of self defense and given the facts and the way this situation played out, we simply did not believe we could overcome those issues, and so we had to make a decision not to move forward with charging."

That decision by Jenkins has sparked a conversation around security guards in San Francisco and whether or not they should be armed.

"This is unacceptable," Julia Arroyo, the co-executive director of the Young Women's Freedom Center who was a longtime friend and mentor of Brown, told ABC7 News. "Why do people have a firearm inside a Walgreens?"

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"I just don't think that there's justification for a murder. A murder of somebody?" Arroyo said. "That doesn't make sense even. What kind of alternatives could the person have used? Because this was lethal force."

The shooting happened last Thursday at the store near 4th and Market Streets. SFPD said they responded to a call about a shoplifting. Jenkins said surveillance video of the incident shows the situation escalated into a violent altercation. She said Brown was not armed.

"What I can say publicly is that this was an ordinary shoplifting incident that really escalated into what turned into a robbery under the law," Jenkins said. "There was an altercation that ensued between Mr. Brown and the security guard that ultimately resulted in the security guard firing his firearm."

She added that there was "violence being used as well as threats of further violence."

But is that enough for a security guard to fire their gun? Arroyo is asking that question and is calling on Jenkins to release the surveillance video.

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"We want to see the tapes. We want to see the proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the DA's office has to justify this murder, and let the community see for themselves," Arroyo said.

Jenkins said her office is not considering releasing the video at this time. "This is still an open investigation. This case is not closed," she said.

The shoot has hit a nerve for many in San Francisco that includes Rafael Gutierrez, a security guard at another Walgreens in the city.

"It's really crazy," Gutierrez said of his job. "Just for asking to leave the store properly, they want to fight you or they want to pull a knife out at you."

Gutierrez became emotional as he told ABC7 News about his experience as a security guard.

"And what can I do? Nothing? We can't do anything to protect ourselves now?" he asked through tears. "I mean, every day I gotta go home to my wife, just letting it out, what I went through. It's not okay."

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Gutierrez said he does not carry a firearm. He has a non-lethal weapon, a taser, pepper spray and a baton. But he understands why some have guns.

"I don't blame them," he said. "It's scary. It's really scary being here."

Arroyo said security guards should not be armed and that she is planning to petition the Board of Supervisors to change the law.

"That is one of the things we're urging," she said, "That firearms, that there has to be some type of oversight of being able to say what is allowed inside San Francisco."

Jenkins said it's a bigger discussion the city needs to have.

"I believe this is going to be a larger conversation that we have to have as a city and as a community," Jenkins said. "We have seen security guards who are unarmed be shot and killed by people stealing. We now have this situation where tragically Banko lost his life after this situation in this Walgreens , and I think that's a decision we're going to have to make after a lot of dialogue in our communities about what we think is appropriate."

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