The death of a man who survived for three years after being shot by San Francisco police has been declared a homicide caused in part by a gunshot wound to his abdomen, the San Francisco Examiner has learned.
Sean Moore, 46, was serving a sentence at San Quentin State Prison when he died Jan. 20 from causes resulting from a “remote gunshot wound” to the abdomen, the Marin County coroner’s office said Monday.
Moore was shot and wounded by Officer Kenneth Cha on the steps of his home in Oceanview on Jan. 6, 2017 during an altercation that also involved Cha’s partner, Officer Colin Patino.
The incident marked the first police shooting captured on body-worn camera footage by the San Francisco Police Department.
The decision to declare the death a homicide could impact the landscape of legal issues at play in both the civil and criminal matters still open over the incident.
The finding means Moore’s parents can pursue a wrongful death claim in their lawsuit against The City. It may also broaden the range of possible charges that could be filed against the officers to manslaughter or even murder.
“Quite frankly, they should be brought up on homicide charges and they should be treated just like every other defendant,” said Patrick Buelna, an attorney for the family.
Buelna acknowledged that pursing homicide charges would be difficult given the time between the shooting and Moore’s death. But he said prosecutors often file the highest possible charges to secure a lesser conviction.
He argued that the officers were unlawfully on Moore’s porch and provoked the shooting.
“Their behavior was despicable and unacceptable,” Buelna said.
The District Attorney’s Office has not made a charging decision in the case. A spokesperson for the office confirmed Monday that the investigation is ongoing.
The City Attorney’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.
The autopsy results are the latest twist in a case that has resulted in years of litigation.
In June, District Attorney Chesa Boudin appointed Lateef Gray, an attorney who formerly represented Moore in his lawsuit against The City, to serve as managing attorney of the Independent Investigations Bureau.
The bureau is in charge of investigating all SFPD shootings — including Moore’s — and recommending whether the officers involved should face criminal charges.
But a spokesperson for the office said Gray has been “walled off” from the Moore case.
Moore died at around 3:45 p.m. on Jan. 20.
An investigation and autopsy later determined his cause of death to be “acute intestinal obstruction” and “severe abdominal adhesions” due to “remote gunshot wound to abdomen.”
Other “significant conditions” that contributed to his death were found to be: “hypertensive cardiovascular disease; obesity; slight coronary atherosclerosis; diabetes mellitus; schizophrenia; and chronic substance abuse.”
The coroner marked the autopsy report “confidential” but released the broader findings to the Examiner via email.
In court filings, the City Attorney’s Office used the results of the autopsy to argue for a delay in the civil trial.
“Given the nature of the information provided by the Marin County Coroner concerning the purported cause of Mr. Moore’s death, it is likely that the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office will need additional time to evaluate whether to issue a declination letter or file criminal charges,” wrote attorney Christopher Whitman.
“The fact and purported nature of Mr. Moore’s death have changed the landscape for potential damages and possible witnesses in this case,” Whitman continued.
Moore was shot after his neighbor called police in the middle of the night and told them he was violating a restraining order by banging on a shared wall.
A back-and-forth between Moore and the officers ensued on the stairs of his home on the 500 block of Capitol Avenue after Cha and Patino rang his doorbell.
Moore denied violating the restraining order and repeatedly told the officers to “get the fuck off my stairs,” calling them derogatory names.
When he opened the gate, body-camera footage shows Cha pepper sprayed him and Moore raised his leg as if to kick the officers.
“Motherfucker,” an officer can be heard saying, descending down the stairs. “What’s up? Come on.”
Moore returned into his house before coming out after an officer told him he was under arrest.
“Fuck you,” Moore yelled repeatedly, refusing to comply and get on the ground. “I ain’t getting on shit.”
As Moore descended the stairs to pick up a piece of paper, Patino appears to advance on him and strike him with a baton multiple times.
Cha then fell backward down the stairs and fired twice at Moore, striking him in the abdomen and leg.
The conflict left the officers bloodied.
Patino later said Moore punched him in the face and broke his nose. Cha also said he was kicked in the face during the initial altercation.
Moore was charged by former District Attorney George Gascon with various offenses including assault on a peace officer over the incident.
But a judge later tossed most of the charges because the officers lacked probable cause to arrest Moore and remain on the stairs.
An appeals court upheld the ruling in May 2018.
Moore was serving time in prison at San Quentin for an unrelated matter.
In August 2019, court records show he was found guilty of criminal threats and making harassing phone calls after being accused of repeatedly calling a civilian police employee at Taraval Station and threatening to kill her.
He was sentenced to three years in prison.
He also has a prior conviction for felony assault with a hate crime enhancement for allegedly hurling racial slurs and rocks at two teenagers at a park near his home in August 2017.
Cha and Patino remain on the force. Both were hired in September 2014 and are the subject of an open administrative investigation, according to a police spokesperson.
Just months after the Moore shooting, Cha shot and killed a 26-year-old man who stabbed a worker at a Subway restaurant on Market Street in May 2017.
The District Attorney’s Office declined to file criminal charges against Cha in that case, finding that he acted in defense of others.
The Examiner unsuccessfully attempted to locate attorneys for Cha and Patino in the Moore criminal matter.