BART Police Chief Kenton Rainey said today that he believes a video of a recent confrontation at the Civic Center station in San Francisco shows that a man threw a bottle and a knife at two officers before one of the officers fatally shot him.
BART Interim General Manager Sherwood Wakeman said multiple investigations into the July 3 incident are continuing but San Francisco police, who are the lead investigators, said the video could be released to the news media and the public because they finished interviewing all the witnesses in the case.
BART is releasing the 73-second-long video because the transit agency, Wakeman said, “wants to have as much transparency as possible.”
Charles Hill, 45, was killed in the incident on the platform at the Civic Center station, but he is not shown in the video, as it shows only part of the platform.
While showing the video to reporters at BART’s headquarters, Rainey said two officers–one white, the other Asian–arrived at the station at 9:45 p.m. on July 3 after BART received reports that Hill was carrying an open bottle of alcohol and was wobbling on the platform.
Rainey said that when the officers first got off a train and arrived at the station they “walked very casually” in the direction where they thought Hill was and then the white officer, who was the primary officer in the incident, put on his gloves, apparently because he thought there would be “some type of physical contact” and wanted to protect himself from potential communicable diseases.
At that point, the video indicates that Hill threw a bottle at the two officers, said Rainey, who showed the video both in regular time and in slow motion.
The Asian officer is not in the frame at that point or in the rest of the video, but Rainey said he was injured by the knife.
The video then shows the white officer drawing his service weapon, holding it in his left hand and bracing his outstretched left arm with his right hand.
The officer apparently “felt threatened in some way,” Rainey said.
The video shows the officer moving his mouth and Rainey said he believes the officer was commanding Hill to drop his knife.
The video next shows the knife coming near the officer, hitting the side of a train and ricocheting to the platform, where it came to rest.
The officer then fired his gun, the video indicates.
Rainey said three shell casings were recovered on the station platform and indicate that the officer fired three shots.
He said the preliminary indication is that Hill was struck by all three shots, but he cautioned that the investigations have not been completed and there has not yet been an official determination of how many shots were fired and how many times Hill was hit.
The knife that Hill allegedly threw at the officers was 8 inches long, including a 4-inch blade, Rainey said.
A second knife of the same size was also found on the platform and investigators believe Hill was armed with that knife as well, Rainey said. He showed photographs of both knives to reporters.
The officer who shot and killed Hill also was carrying a Taser but chose to use his gun instead, Rainey said.
He said officers are justified in using a gun if they believe a suspect could cause “serious injury or death” either to officers or the public, Rainey said.
The investigations into the incident are being conducted by the San Francisco Police, the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, the BART Police Department’s internal affairs unit and BART Independent Police Auditor Mark Smith.
Rainey said it was not known how much longer it will take to complete all the investigation but he said San Francisco police try to provide updates on officer-involved shootings within 45 days.
Smith said his role is to make sure that BART police investigate the shooting properly and determine if further investigation is needed.
He said, “I will hold the Police Department’s feet to the fire.”
Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News