Two recent citizen accounts of pepper or mace sprayings on Muni have elicited little more than shrugged shoulders from SF city officials, unable to confirm or dispute these reports sent in by readers. And, before you ask, these are readers I know and spoke with, so I’m pretty sure I’m not getting punked.
The first account we received reportedly went down at 6:10 PM on Tuesday, Sept 21. According to Appeal reader Johnny, riders on the M at Church Street Station hurriedly exited the train after two women were reportedly arguing with a man, threatened him, and sprayed him with mace or pepper spray.
John says the spray “cleared the train. People were coughing but nothing serious.” Though John reports that SFPD did arrive on the scene, SFPD spokesperson Sgt. Troy Dangerfield was unable to provide us with any details on the incident after the Appeal reached out to SFPD last week.
In a second incident that took place during Thursday morning’s commute, reader S says that he was on the inbound 5 Fulton at around 8:30 this morning when a dispute between two riders ended when a woman sprayed another woman “full on in the face” with, again, either pepper spray or mace.
The suspect, a tall African-American woman in her late 20s or early 30s with, S says, a straight bob haircut, got on the bus at Fillmore, and allegedly sprayed her fellow passenger right before getting off near 8th and Market.
The blast cleared the back of the bus, says S, who was grazed by the stream. “I had itchy eyes and a sore throat, but I’m better now.”
Repeated calls to SFPD have yet to dig up more details, which is perhaps unsurprising as S says that when he spoke to a SFPD officer working transit safety, he was told that he was apparently the first person to call in a report.
In my last communication with SFPD’s media relations unit, I provided them with the information I had from the report S said he filed, so I’m hopeful that perhaps they’ll have an update for me eventually.
“Isn’t the driver supposed to file a report?” S asked. He says that the driver was definitely aware of the bus-purging attack — after the incident, the driver reportedly pulled up next to S as S waited for the next bus, and they briefly chatted about the spraying.
According to SF MTA spokesperson Paul Rose, “I’m not sure if they’re ‘required to,’ but I’d expect that they would.” Rose says he has not been alerted to any incidents from this morning, either. As with SFPD, I told him what I knew, and he said he’d check further. Again, I’ll update when I hear more.
Are these incidents just cases of the media relations arms of agencies not being updated by their colleagues? As someone who once worked in PR, I’ll cop to that as a possibility. But we feel an obligation to try to confirm accounts sent to us by readers, so we’re reliant on updated spokespeople to get you readers the best information we can. If spokespeople aren’t being kept in the loop by their colleagues, we can get stories wrong, or miss them completely, both of which suck.
Another option, however, is that people aren’t reporting Muni crimes the way, perhaps, they should. Maybe if we all made a bigger stink (NOT with pepper spray) about stuff like this, more attention might be directed on the issue and more might be done to solve it.
Then again, maybe I’m just being naive. But I’m going to follow S’s lead and call the cops the next time I see a crime going down on Muni, and I hope you do, too. Until then, if you witnessed either last week’s or today’s incident (or any other!), please do let us know, will you?
Photo: by reader Johnny, from the Sept 21 Muni incident that cleared him M train at Church station.