An Oakland man who claims he was kicked and punched by BART police officers three years ago told a federal jury in San Francisco today that “I’m not an angel,” but insisted, “I did not deserve to get beat up.”
Kenneth Carrethers, 43, testified in the trial of his civil rights lawsuit against BART, former BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle, and four current officers.
He claims the officers injured him and used unconstitutional excessive force in subduing him during a confrontation at BART’s Coliseum/Oakland Airport station on Nov. 15, 2008.
The incident occurred six and a half weeks before Mehserle fatally shot Oscar Grant of Hayward at BART’s Fruitvale station on News Year’s Day in 2009.
Mehserle, 29, who said he accidentally used his service gun instead of a stun gun, was later convicted of involuntary manslaughter and served about a year of a two-year sentence.
In the 2008 incident, Carrethers claims Mehserle grabbed him from behind without warning and brought him to the ground, and Mehserle and the other officers kicked, punched and hog-tied him.
The officers contend they used reasonable force because Carrethers appeared to be about to strike Officer Frederick Guanzon with clenched fists and then, when Mehserle sought to grab his wrist, appeared to be about to hit Mehserle.
Mehserle testified last week, “I had no doubt he was going to hit Officer Guanzon on the head. I grabbed Mr. Carrethers to prevent injury to Officer Guanzon.”
Both sides agree the incident occurred after Carrethers, whose car had been broken into twice in the station parking lot, criticized the officers in obscene language for being lazy and incompetent.
Carrethers was returning home from his job as an engineer at a San Francisco hotel when he encountered the officers at the station at 10:30 p.m.
On the stand today, he said, “I’m not no choir boy. I’m not an angel.”
“I made mistakes,” Carrethers continued.
But “I did not deserve to get beat up. I never put my hands on anybody, nor did I intend to put my hands on anybody,” he said.
Asked by BART attorney Dale Allen whether he was “thrashing around” after being brought to the ground, Carrethers said, “I wanted to ball up” to protect his body.
“I was getting kicked, punched, kneed. I’m trying just to cover my body,” he said.
Under questioning from his own attorney, Chris Dolan, Carrethers denied that he raised his hand toward Guanzon at the start of the scuffle.
The trial in the court of U.S. District Judge Edward Chen began last week and is expected to reach closing arguments and the start of jury deliberations on Wednesday.
Carrethers is seeking an unspecified amount of financial compensation for alleged pain, humiliation, lost pay and medical expenses.
After being arrested by the officers, he was treated at a hospital, jailed for two days and charged with threatening an officer and resisting arrest. Alameda County prosecutors later dismissed the charges on grounds of insufficient evidence.
Julia Cheever, Bay City News