The general manager of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system apologized Monday to a man who was detained and handcuffed by a police officer last week after he was seen eating a sandwich on the train platform — an episode captured in a video that was widely shared and that prompted a weekend protest.
BART’s general manager, Bob Powers, said in a statement that “eating in the paid area is banned and there are multiple signs inside every station saying as much” and that the officer, who is white, asked the rider, who is black, “not to eat while he was on the platform responding to another call.”
“It should have ended there, but it didn’t,” he added, explaining that the man “did not stop eating and the officer moved forward with the process of issuing him a citation.”
Mr. Powers said the man who was eating refused to provide identification and “cursed at and made homophobic slurs at the officer who remained calm through out the entire engagement.”
Still, he noted that “context is key” and indicated that the officer might have gone too far.
“Enforcement of infractions such as eating and drinking inside our paid area should not be used to prevent us from delivering on our mission to provide safe, reliable, and clean transportation,” he said, adding that he was disappointed about “how the situation unfolded.”
Phone calls and messages sent to BART were not immediately returned on Monday evening. Attempts to reach the man, identified by local media reports as Steve Foster, were unsuccessful.
In an interview with ABC 7 News, Mr. Foster said that he was not accepting the transit agency’s apology.
“The story got flipped,” he said, adding that he feels like “we’re kind of past the point of no return now.”
Mr. Foster is now considering taking legal action against BART, ABC 7 news reported.
The 15-minute video of the episode shows an officer holding the handle of a man’s backpack and telling him, “You are detained, and you’re not free to go.”
“You singled me out, out of all these people,” the man, who had a sandwich in his hand, told the officer.
“You’re eating,” the officer said.
“So what?” the man replied.
As the video continues, the officer told the man that he was going to jail for resisting arrest.
“I haven’t done anything wrong,” the man said as he repeatedly asked the officer to release the handle of his backpack.
Later in the video, the man, who had cursed at the officer and asked to speak with his supervisor, is seen being handcuffed by a group of police officers.
“Four cops for eating a sandwich,” the person recording the episode said.
At the end of the video, the man is seen being taken into a room with a yellow door. The man received a citation after the Nov. 4 confrontation, according to BART officials, who also said that the man was not arrested.
“We have confirmed w/ the Deputy Chief he was not arrested. He was cited for eating, which is a violation of state law,” the transit agency shared on its verified Twitter page last week. “No matter how you feel about eating on BART, the officer saw someone eating and asked him to stop, when he didn’t he was given a citation.”
Images and videos posted to social media on Saturday show several people enjoying sandwiches on a train platform. Janice Li, who was elected to the BART board of directors in 2018, was among those at the protest.
Ms. Li said on Twitter that she “won’t comment on this case specifically, but broadly speaking, enforcing the no drinking/eating rule is not how we fix BART.”
“Enforcement is a function of the way resources are allocated vs what the laws are,” she said, adding that “there are WAY bigger issues at BART than enforcing no drinking/eating.”
The BART controversy over the eating citation comes as the New York City Police Department is facing criticism for its crackdown on crime and fare evasion on the subway.
In June, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced the deployment of 500 extra police officers to patrol New York City’s subway. But videos of physical confrontations between passengers and uniformed police officers have touched a nerve in the city. A protest was held Monday in support of a woman who was handcuffed for selling churros — a fried dough treat — inside a subway station last week.
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