Editor’s notes

Pub date July 19, 2011
WriterTim Redmond
SectionEditors Notes

So now I’m really confused.

State Assemblymember Tom Ammiano met July 18 with representatives of BART and the BART Police (three BART lobbyists, a deputy chief, and a sergeant). He wanted to get some sense of what’s going on with the investigation into the Civic Center shooting. Ammiano had pushed last year for legislation forcing BART to create a civilian oversight agency for the cops; instead, BART created its own police auditor position.

Ammiano asked when BART would start releasing information, starting with the station video of the event, which ended with a homeless man dead on the platform. BART, Ammiano told me, said the whole thing had been turned over to the San Francisco Police Department.

But the SFPD Public Affairs Office tells me that it won’t release anything — that all information has to come from BART. Linton Johnson, BART’s public affairs person, tells me that it’s SFPD’s investigation and nothing will be forthcoming until SFPD turns its files over to the district attorney — but yes, even then, thanks to an interagency deal, all info will have to come from BART.

Round and round and round we spin. And nobody tells us anything.

There are some serious questions here. BART officials told Ammiano that Charles Hill, the dead man, was “armed with two knives and a bottle.” That’s the current narrative — that the guy was a mortal threat to the officers, who had the discretion to use lethal force.

Quintin Mecke, Ammiano’s press aide, asked the obvious question: Was Hill in fact wielding the weapons in a threatening way? Were the knives later found on his body? Did he throw the bottle or was it in his hand?

BART’s response: “They told me that was part of the investigation,” Mecke said.

As for the SFPD, Mecke said he’s been told that the investigation should be concluded in 45 days — which is crazy. I can’t imagine why it takes that long to review a police shooting that took place on a public train platform — and was recorded on video. “It is,” Mecke told me, “a stonewall all around.”

The good news is that BART now has an official police auditor. His name is Mark Smith. He has no staff at all, so he can’t investigate the case — but that’s okay, because the BART police are offering to help him.

For the record, I remain dubious.