The rookie San Francisco officer who shot and killed an unarmed man in the Bayview earlier this month committed an unlawful and wrongful act when he pulled the trigger, attorneys for the family said Tuesday in a lawsuit filed in federal court.
The wrongful death lawsuit from attorney John Burris claims that Officer Christopher Samayoa was not in danger when he shot 42-year-old Kieta O’Neil in the head during a police pursuit Dec. 1.
Burris also characterized the killing as a deliberate and premeditated murder and is calling on District Attorney George Gascon to press criminal charges against Samayoa.
Samayoa was four days out of the Police Academy when he shot O’Neil, a black man from San Francisco, while riding in the passenger seat of a patrol car driven by his field training officer, according to the lawsuit.
“This is an example of a poorly trained and negligently supervised San Francisco police officer causing fatal injury,” Burris said in a statement.
O’Neil was driving a stolen California Lottery van carjacked earlier that day while being chased by police when he stopped the car at Fitzgerald Avenue and Griffith Street, near the Alice Griffith housing projects.
Body camera footage released after the showed O’Neil exit the vehicle and Samayoa open fire from inside the moving patrol car as it came to a stop next to the van. The bullet shattered the patrol car window.
“Officer Samayoa took careful aim through the sight of his handgun and waited for Mr. O’Neil’s head to come into view,” Burris said. “As soon as Mr. O’Neil was lined up with the sight of Officer Samayoa’s gun, the rookie opened fire with deliberation and premeditation.”
The incident brought back memories for community members of police shooting Mario Woods in the Bayview on Dec. 2, 2015. His death, and the deaths of other black San Franciscans at the hands of police, led to the resignation of former police Chief Greg Suhr.
The lawsuit is filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Burris is representing O’Neil’s elderly mother, Judy O’Neil.
The shooting is under investigation by multiple agencies including the District Attorney’s Office.
Alex Bastian, a spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office, said there are no updates on the status of the investigation into whether to press charges against the officer at this time.
“These cases are very important for our office and for our city,” Bastian said. “Therefore, it is important that these investigations are conducted not just quickly but also correctly.”
San Francisco City Attorney’s Office spokesperson 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,” Cote said. “The lawsuit admits that when the decedent finally stopped the van, he got out and ran toward the police car.”
Bay City News contributed to this report.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional information.