For those of you giving yourself a pat on the back for sneakily hopping on BART and getting a free ride, think again. On June 22, a BART police officer Tased a passenger after trying to detain him for alleged fare evasion, the Chronicle reports.
The BART Police Department just had their Tasers returned two weeks ago after a suspension since mid-April. Officers were being retrained on Taser usage after several incidents, including a 13-year-old biker being Tased and, most notably, the shooting death of Oscar Grant, which some attribute to a gun and Taser mix up.
On Tuesday, an officer that BART would not name said he saw 35-year-old Jason Johnson leaving the downtown Berkeley station without paying. According to BART police Lt. Andy Alkire, the officer told Johnson to stop, but he continued to run up the stairs. The officer grabbed Johnson who responded with an “aggressive fighting stance” and looked like he had a large threatening object in his pocket, said Alkire. After several warnings, the officer proceeded to tase Johnson in the back, who collapsed and was handcuffed after a struggle.
Transit agency spokesman Linton Johnson (no relation to the the Tased Johnson) said that BART police is currently reviewing the case. He said that the officer’s response might be justified, saying that to let Johnson go would send “a message to all suspects that they can put up a fight with officers, and we will have no law and order on the system anymore.”
Alkire agreed with spokesperson Johnson and said that the officer’s actions were a justified “judgment call.” BART also noted that Jason Johnson is a registered sex offender and has a “long criminal record.”
BART Board of Directors member Lynette Sweet, however, has misgivings. “It’s one of the stupidest uses of a Taser I can think of,” she said. “The police still don’t seem to have a grasp about when they should be appropriately used.”