Black transgender man Banko Brown, 24, was shot to death by a security guard near a Walgreens in San Francisco last Thursday, making him at least the 10th trans American to die by violence this year.
The guard, Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony, was jailed briefly but was released Monday and will not be charged with a crime, the San Francisco Chroniclereports. “The evidence clearly shows that the suspect believed he was in mortal danger and acted in self-defense,” said a statement from District Attorney Brooke Jenkins.
“We reviewed witness statements, statements from the suspect, and video footage of the incident and it does not meet the People’s burden to be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury that the suspect is guilty of a crime,” Jenkins added. “We cannot bring forward charges when there is credible evidence of reasonable self-defense. Doing so would be unethical and create false hope for a successful prosecution.”
Authorities said Brown, who had experienced homelessness for several years, was shot during a shoplifting incident, but Brown’s friends said he was not shoplifting. Jenkins told the Chronicle that in the incident, “both threats of force and physical force were used,” but she declined to say whether Brown was armed.
Brown’s friends said he was enthusiastic about his work as a community organizing intern with the Young Women’s Freedom Center, which assists young women and trans youth who have experienced poverty and other difficulties, providing them with training and mentoring and helping them find employment.
“Banko was a loving person,” Julia Arroyo, co-executive director of the center, said at a Monday rally on Brown’s behalf, Mission Localreports. “Every time Banko walked into the center, he was surrounded by small children and a gang of people around him. And even when he was turned away from doors, he still brought people to get resources.”
Brown was trying hard to find housing, Arroyo said. “He was the next in line to receive his housing, and so they continued to tell him, you just got to call back every morning,” she said, according to San Francisco TV station KGO. Sometimes he spent the night on a rapid transit train.
“I know that Banko called tirelessly to all of these places, waited in line for housing, and was turned away so many times, and I’ve just seen his urgency to get there, and this is the result," Arroyo continued. “This is the result, and we should all be ashamed of ourselves in San Francisco.”
Brown’s friends and supporters said the city has a severe shortage of affordable housing, creating a humanitarian crisis, and finding a place to live is particularly difficult for trans people. “Being a Black trans man, it was complicated for him,” Arroyo said. “To be inside of women’s housing or men’s housing. He was constantly being targeted, and so he often talked about ‘Where’s my place for a home?’”
Those who knew Brown also questioned the use of deadly force against him. “It’s insane that Walgreens has armed security — there’s nothing in that store worth a human life,” Jessica Nowlan, an activist with the Young Women’s Freedom Center, told KGO. Barbara Brown, his stepmother, called his killing “a senseless death,” according to Mission Local.
“As a Black trans man myself, it is not easy to be Black,” Xavier Davenport, a friend and mentor to Brown, said at the rally. “It’s not easy to be trans in this America; in this city we live in that does everything they can to trample us.”
Mayor London Breed has pledged to end homelessness among trans San Franciscans by 2027, but some activists said she is not doing enough. The mayor’s office responded by releasing a statement saying, “San Francisco strives to be a national leader in supporting trans communities and helping people on the path to housing and stability in a country where too often the basic rights and safety of trans people are under attack.”