Since its inception in 1972, BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) Police have been involved in six shootings. Three of them occurred during the past three years, including latest on July 3 at the BART Civic Center station in San Francisco.
Officers fatally shot a suspect in self-defense when he attacked them with two knives. The reaction among anti-police factions was immediate, intense, and undoubtedly intensified by a fresh memory of the controversial, deadly shooting of an unarmed passenger by BART Officer Johannes Mehserle on Jan. 1, 2009.
The shooting sparked widespread outrage, protests, and demonstrations. It led to violent riots in Oakland. Mehserle was arrested, charged, convicted and sentenced for involuntary manslaughter.
The Bay Area is certainly no stranger to demonstrations, so it's no surprise that the July 3 BART Police shooting sparked a new round of protests in the city, including the July 11 protest at the Civic Center BART station at the peak of a busy afternoon commute.
Protesters invaded the BART station, clambering over a BART train filled with passengers. The resultant chaos, which was filmed, showed protesters physically preventing the BART train from moving. At least one protester attempted to climb atop the train. Video captured a very chaotic scene.
BART Police in full riot gear, backed by SFPD responded, eventually clearing the station of protesters. BART officials, fearing further disruptions decided to close down the BART Civic Center station for several hours. As often happens in the protest-prone Bay Area, the BART protesters appeared organized, trained, experienced, and focused on disrupting BART during peak commute hours.
(VIDEO) Watch an excerpt of the July 11 protests:
The July 3 BART shooting controversy continued to pick up steam, as critics questioned, doubted, and eventually condemned the police "version." For the second time in 2-½ years, BART Police found themselves embroiled in yet another controversial shooting. This was yet another blow to BART Police—a department working very hard to rebuild its image.
The SFPD/BART Police investigation into the July 3 shooting continued. On July 21, BART released video of the shooting. The video shows two BART officers getting off a BART train at the Civic Center station. Within 25 seconds, they found themselves in a life-or-death confrontation.
The video surveillance footage of the incident has been well broadcast. It begins by showing the initial officer putting his gloves on, perhaps anticipating a potential confrontation. Seconds later, you see a knife thrown at the officer by the suspect strike the side of the BART train, then slide across the platform floor.
Almost simultaneously, you see the officer draw and fire his service weapon at the suspect, who is off camera. BART officers say they fired in self-defense when the suspect attacked them with a second knife. The incident was over in 25 seconds.
The blockbuster BART video was released on July 21. The next logical question is whether this latest evidence supporting the BART officer's account will be enough to "satisfy" public opinion.