By Michael Barba – SF Examiner – Jan. 27, 2020
San Francisco’s police union urged federal authorities to intervene Monday after newly elected District Attorney Chesa Boudin halted the prosecution of a man shot by police in the Mission.
On Friday, Boudin withdrew the criminal complaint against 24-year-old Jamaica Hampton over his confrontation with police last December, eliciting outrage from the San Francisco Police Officers Association.
The SFPOA, which spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on ads to oppose Boudin during the November election, said the decision sent a message that officers could be attacked with impunity.
“Everything he said during his campaign has now come to fruition,” SFPOA President Tony Montoya told reporters after holding a press conference with law enforcement associations from Los Angeles and San Jose to condemn the decision.
“That should be cause for alarm for everybody in San Francisco, whether you’re a resident, a business owner, a tourist or a police officer,” Montoya said. “He is going to put the suspect’s rights over the rights of real victims.”
Montoya announced that the United Coalition of Public Safety, a national organization of law enforcement associations including the SFPOA, had sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr asking him to “intervene.”
“The criminals-first message this sends is chilling to all law enforcement officers,” the letter reads. “It flashes a green light to every criminal, every suspect, anyone fleeing law enforcement that you can attack, assault and injure officers and nothing will happen to you.”
Boudin previously explained that he withdrew the complaint because the officers who shot at Hampton are also being investigated by the District Attorney’s Office. The office is the lead criminal investigator in all San Francisco police shootings.
“It would be problematic to ask the officers to testify while they are under investigation,” Boudin told the San Francisco Examiner.
Boudin said the District Attorney’s Office will still have at least three years to charge Hampton if necessary. He also noted that Hampton is not a threat to public safety because he remains hospitalized in serious condition.
Hampton allegedly attacked police near 23rd and Mission streets on Dec. 7, 2019 while the officers were searching for a suspect in two calls including a hot prowl burglary.
One of the officers was struck over the head with a glass bottle.
After a chase ensued in which one officer unsuccessfully attempted to pepper spray Hampton, officers Sterling Hayes and Christopher Flores fired a total of seven shots at Hampton.
Hampton survived despite being struck three times. He later had his leg amputated.
On Monday, a spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office said the Hampton case was “unique” because “there are multiple victims who are seeking, and who deserve, justice.”
“No conclusions about the prosecutorial viability of Hampton’s case should be drawn here,” said Boudin’s spokesperson Paula Lehman-Ewing.
“The assertion by Mr. Montoya that we have given people a ‘green light’ to attack officers is plainly false,” Lehman-Ewing said. “Our decision should only be understood as an effort to deconflict investigative time limits, statutory discovery obligations and to maintain the integrity of investigative leads. It’s absolutely imperative we have internal clarity on charges we file against any individual.”
The news prompted Mayor London Breed to issue a lengthy message to all San Francisco Police Department officers on Monday.
“I have no doubt that this decision has created a great deal of confusion, frustration, and anger within the department,” Breed said in the email obtained by the Examiner. “I have spoken with the district attorney and he made it clear that the investigation into all the circumstances and facts surrounding the incident must be resolved before any decision to file charges can occur to avoid any conflict of interest.”
“I would like you all to know that you have my full support in your efforts to continue to do the excellent work that you are doing,” Breed told officers.
But Breed also said she is “sensitive to the fact that Jamaica Hampton is still recovering from his injuries.”
“I firmly believe there should be an investigation into the shooting that happened,” Breed said. “That said, our Police Department has worked diligently to implement reforms to reduce officer-involved shootings and to be more transparent with the community. I believe holding people accountable in our city starts with holding ourselves accountable.”
Danielle Harris, a deputy public defender who is representing Hampton, said putting the prosecution on hold until an investigation is complete is “exactly the procedure police benefit from routinely.”
“The POA outrage here reflects an institutional belief that the poor and powerless can be summarily jailed on half-information while only those in power deserve the benefit of careful, considered, full analysis,” Harris said. “In a just world, all lives don’t only matter; they matter equally.”
Harris rejected the notion that individuals could now attack police without punishment, noting that Hampton has so far been rendered unconscious, been intubated, suffered major nerve damage and lost part of his leg and right thumb as a result of the shooting.
“If Jamaica’s pain and suffering and lifelong repercussions — from his lost leg and a nonworking arm — doesn’t constitute punishment, I don’t know what does,” Harris told the Examiner. “The police got their pound(s) of flesh here for certain.”
The SFPOA also published a website Monday slamming Boudin.