mace.jpgTwo 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.

the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at eve@sfappeal.com.

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  • Jackson West

    Wait, the SFPD is supposed to patrol and enforce laws on Muni? I’ll believe it when I see it. Next thing you’ll tell me is that that SFMTA is paying the police department millions to do what should be part of their job anyway.

  • Jackson West

    Wait, the SFPD is supposed to patrol and enforce laws on Muni? I’ll believe it when I see it. Next thing you’ll tell me is that that SFMTA is paying the police department millions to do what should be part of their job anyway.

  • Greg Dewar

    Muni’s budget was looted by other departments by the Mayor who used muni as an ATM for his political pals in office. That said, given how much money Muni and the MTA pay to the SFPD, there should be a bit more law enforcement on buses.

    I realize that will make David Campos cry a tear or something, but I’d rather have cops patrolling Muni than crazy people attacking folks with pepper spray.

  • Greg Dewar

    Muni’s budget was looted by other departments by the Mayor who used muni as an ATM for his political pals in office. That said, given how much money Muni and the MTA pay to the SFPD, there should be a bit more law enforcement on buses.

    I realize that will make David Campos cry a tear or something, but I’d rather have cops patrolling Muni than crazy people attacking folks with pepper spray.

  • Forced Smiles

    I was on the no. 5 Fulton bus yesterday morning and got a good view of the pepper-spray incident. This is how I remember it: The woman got on around Fillmore and sat in the middle seat at the very back of the bus. There were two white guys in the seats on her left, and a white guy and an asian girl on her right. I noticed that she was maybe getting a little too cozy with the people around her. She put her arm up on the seat behind the people on her right (and maybe on her left, too?), while listening to her iPod. When the bus approached the stop on Market across from Civic Center Plaza, she got up to get off. As she got up, I happened to notice that the guy sitting on her left must have been bothered by her, because he went to kick her, and maybe caught her slightly in the rear. She stood at the door stewing about it for a minute, then came back and unleashed a pepper spray stream right in his face from about six feet away, and then also at the guy sitting next to him to his left (what did he do?). She then said something like, “That’s for kicking me!”, then went to the door, wished everyone a nice day, got off and walked away, and no one did anything to try to stop her. While she started walking down Market towards Eighth Street, everyone on the bus, starting from the back, started to feel the effects of the pepper-spray, and started coughing. The bus was emptied quickly. One of the guys who got sprayed in the face was spitting up, maybe vomiting. The woman yelled back something like, “Sorry about that, Sweetie,” by this time already fifty or so yards away. I got the feeling that she might have been a he, like a female impersonator, though there wasn’t anything particularly masculine in her appearance or her voice. Just a hunch. The driver seemed oblivious to it all, and wondered why everyone got off the bus. I did not stick around, though, and decided to walk the rest of the way down Market to work, and saw the mostly empty bus go by me continuing on its route.

  • Forced Smiles

    I was on the no. 5 Fulton bus yesterday morning and got a good view of the pepper-spray incident. This is how I remember it: The woman got on around Fillmore and sat in the middle seat at the very back of the bus. There were two white guys in the seats on her left, and a white guy and an asian girl on her right. I noticed that she was maybe getting a little too cozy with the people around her. She put her arm up on the seat behind the people on her right (and maybe on her left, too?), while listening to her iPod. When the bus approached the stop on Market across from Civic Center Plaza, she got up to get off. As she got up, I happened to notice that the guy sitting on her left must have been bothered by her, because he went to kick her, and maybe caught her slightly in the rear. She stood at the door stewing about it for a minute, then came back and unleashed a pepper spray stream right in his face from about six feet away, and then also at the guy sitting next to him to his left (what did he do?). She then said something like, “That’s for kicking me!”, then went to the door, wished everyone a nice day, got off and walked away, and no one did anything to try to stop her. While she started walking down Market towards Eighth Street, everyone on the bus, starting from the back, started to feel the effects of the pepper-spray, and started coughing. The bus was emptied quickly. One of the guys who got sprayed in the face was spitting up, maybe vomiting. The woman yelled back something like, “Sorry about that, Sweetie,” by this time already fifty or so yards away. I got the feeling that she might have been a he, like a female impersonator, though there wasn’t anything particularly masculine in her appearance or her voice. Just a hunch. The driver seemed oblivious to it all, and wondered why everyone got off the bus. I did not stick around, though, and decided to walk the rest of the way down Market to work, and saw the mostly empty bus go by me continuing on its route.