The BART police officer who fatally shot a knife-wielding homeless man at the Civic Center station last summer “acted lawfully in self-defense,” the District Attorney’s Office said Tuesday.
In a seven-page report to police Chief Greg Suhr, District Attorney George Gascón wrote that “there appears no reasonable factual or legal basis upon which to charge” Officer James Crowell for the fatal shooting of 45-year-old Charles Hill on July 3.
Gascón said doctors who examined toxicology reports on Hill concluded that he was using alcohol, methamphetamine and synthetic marijuana at the time of the shooting.
Dr. Nikolas Lemos, the chief forensic toxicologist for the Medical Examiner’s Office, said in the report he believes Hill was “a chronic methamphetamine user” and he has rarely seen people with such a high level of meth in their body who were still alive.
Dale Allen, an attorney who represents BART, said Gascon’s report “supports our belief that Officer Crowell acted appropriately and in fear of his life” when he shot and killed Hill.
But Oakland attorney John Burris, who recently filed a wrongful death and civil rights lawsuit in federal court on behalf of Hill’s family, said, “We won’t be deterred and will go forward with the lawsuit. This report has no effect on us.”
Burris said he’s “not surprised” by the report because prosecutors must prove a criminal case beyond a reasonable doubt, but in civil cases the standard is lower, only a preponderance of the evidence.
The shooting incident sparked a series of weekly protests that went on for nearly two months. They targeted BART police’s policies on the use of force and an agency decision to shut off wireless service in downtown San Francisco stations to thwart a planned protest.
One incident in particular that fueled protests was the fatal shooting of Oscar Grant III on New Year’s Day 2009.
Then-BART Officer Johannes Mehserle was charged with murder for fatally shooting Grant at the Fruitvale station in Oakland. Mehserle, who claimed he had only meant to use his Taser but fired his service gun by mistake, was convicted of the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter.