BART’s police chief said Monday he’s “comfortable” with how officers reacted Sunday when one shot and killed an apparently drunk, weapon-wielding man on the Civic Center station platform.
One of the officers, who BART police Chief Kenton Rainey said feared for their safety, wore a Taser stun gun but did not use it during the one-minute encounter. Rainey said it was still unknown why the officers used lethal force.
“At this point, I can’t answer that question,” Rainey said. “But the Taser is a tool. And when you’re confronted with deadly force … it’s a tool that the officer can choose to use, or cannot choose to use.”
He said officers were called at 9:34 p.m. after someone reported a white man in a tie-dyed T-shirt and green fatigue pants walking around with an open liquor bottle. A second report said the man was “wobbly and appeared to be drunk.”
Two male officers, whom BART has not identified, arrived by train at 9:45 p.m. About a minute later, one opened fire, striking the man in the “front torso,” Rainey said.
Citing the ongoing investigation, the chief wouldn’t provide much detail about what led to the shooting. Rainey declined to confirm another official’s statement that one officer suffered a minor cut on his arm from shards of glass.
“The suspect … had a bottle which was used as a weapon, and he was also armed with a knife,” Rainey said. “A confrontation occurred as a result of the suspect’s aggressive actions, and, fearing for their safety, one of the officers discharged his duty weapon, striking the suspect.”
The man, described as between 30 and 50 years old, was pronounced dead about an hour later. He has not been identified.
Asked if the officers followed training protocols and acted appropriately, Rainey said, “From what I know at this point, yes; I’m comfortable with what has occurred.”
Rainey was hired after the fatal shooting of unarmed passenger Oscar Grant III by an officer at the Fruitvale station in 2009. BART’s response to Sunday’s shooting already looks different in some ways from its reaction to the Grant incident, which prompted protests and reforms, including
additional training for officers.
Rainey’s openness about the Taser contrasts with BART’s refusal after the Grant shooting to say whether then-Officer Johannes Mehserle carried such a weapon. And where Mehserle resigned before talking to investigators, the chief said the
officers involved in Sunday’s incident are cooperating.
Finally, as if in response to all the eyewitness accounts that surfaced in the wake of Grant’s shooting, Rainey called on passengers to come forward with information about the Civic Center shooting.
“There were a number of people on the platform that need to be interviewed as witnesses,” Rainey said, adding that part of the confrontation was recorded on BART cameras.
The officers involved have been placed on routine administrative leave, and the San Francisco
Police Department and District Attorney’s Office are assisting in the investigation.