Lethal force - Page 3

The BART Police Department operates without oversight or accountability - but with plenty of attack dogs and 12-gauge shotguns
|
()

None could explain the complaint procedure, or identify the person responsible for supervising internal investigations. Most didn't know how the police chief was hired, or to whom he reported; some board members didn't even know his name.

Several years ago, I asked Art Shartsis, a downtown lawyer who was then the BART Board president, if he knew who ran the BART police. His answer was unusually blunt, but entirely typical of the attitude board members show toward the force.

"I don't know," he told me. "I guess we must have a chief."

A DAY AT THE MALL

Jerrold Hall was the son of Alameda Fire Department Captain Cornelius Hall, a retired Navy Reserve officer who lives with his wife, Rose and two other sons in a comfortable middle-class home in suburban Union City. Both of Jerrold's brothers are in college, earning top grades; his aunt is the first black woman ever to serve on the Board of Trustees of Auburn University.

Jerrold, who graduated from high school in 1991 and was living with his parents, "had some problems, like a lot of kids these days," his father told me. "But we hoped he'd outgrow them. He was a good kid, never into guns or killing or any of that sort of thing."

On Sunday, Nov. 15, at about 2 in the afternoon, Hall met Owens at the Eastmont Mall in Oakland. According to a sworn statement Owens gave to the police, the two drank a few beers and part of a small bottle of E&J Brandy. Early in the evening, Hill invited Owens to his home, and they left the mall on an AC Transit bus to catch a BART train for Union City.

According to Owens and several other witnesses, Owens and Hill encountered a black man in his late 30s on board the train, and the man asked them if they wanted to buy one of the Walkmans he was carrying in a bag. When first questioned by police, at about 1:35 a.m., Owens said he declined the offer, went to another train car "where more girls were," and met up with Hall again a few minutes later. At about 4:30 a.m., he made another statement, acknowledging that he was present when the friend he called "Glasstop" told the would-be salesman, "give me your Walkman."

Several other witnesses on the train agreed that Hall had confronted the man, and walked away with a bag. None, including Owens, saw a gun.

However, the victim of what the BART police still call an "armed robbery" called the train operator on the intercom and said two men with a gun had stolen his Walkman. The operator, who never saw Hall or Owens, reported the incident, and it was relayed to BART police, who instructed the trainman to stop in Hayward, and, after a brief delay, to open the train doors. Hall and Owens left with about 50 others; according to the station attendant, they jumped the emergency gate and walked into the parking lot.

The police were able to find several eyewitnesses to the alleged robbery; however, other than Owens and Crabtree, who was the only police officer on the scene at the time, the internal report does not identify a single witness who actually saw the shooting.

An official Dec. 7 statement, written by BART Police Chief Harold Taylor at the request of the Bay Guardian and reviewed by BART's legal department, notes that "witnesses disagreed as to the precise sequence of the next events."

The internal BART police documents obtained by the Bay Guardian contain no formal statement or direct quotation from Crabtree; he apparently filed no written report. The reports were all prepared by other officers, who arrived at the scene after the shooting.

According to those reports, filed shortly after the incident, Crabtree approached Hall and Owens, who were standing near a bench in the parking lot's bus-stop area, and ordered them to lie on the ground with their hands over their heads.