Lethal force - Page 4

The BART Police Department operates without oversight or accountability - but with plenty of attack dogs and 12-gauge shotguns
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Owens complied; Hall did not.

Hall, the reports state, "confronted and challenged Officer Crabtree, attempting to take Officer Crabtree's shotgun from him at one point." There is no mention of what the dog, who was trained to bite anyone who attacked Officer Crabtree, was doing at the time. BART officials refuse to elaborate, saying the incident is still under investigation.

However, one Bay Area dog trainer, who has trained police dogs, said it's highly unlikely that a German shepherd of the sort imported by the BART police (see sidebar) would fail to respond in such a situation. "Dogs are very loyal and protective," the trainer, who asked not to be identified, told the Bay Guardian. "These dogs are carefully bred and taught to attack anyone who physically endangers their human handler. Sometimes they overreact; they very rarely underreact."

TO TAKE A LIFE

Owens told the police he "did not see the cop and Glasstop get into any physical fighting. They did not touch. They were just arguing." After a few moments, Owens said, "Glasstop walked over to me and said we could go. So we started to walk away."

Whatever the nature of the confrontation between Hall and Officer Crabtree, the police report and witness statements leave very little doubt that it ended with Hall walking away - and, as the internal police report states, "with Officer Crabtree retaining the shotgun."

It's also clear that some time, perhaps as much a minute or two, passed between the initial clash and the shooting - more than enough time for Hall and Owens to start walking away. During that period, the documents suggest, the passenger who had initially reported the robbery - and had not made any contact yet with police - suddenly ran out into the parking lot, pointed toward Hall and Owens and shouted, "That's them." Then the passenger fled.

Crabtree then ordered the two young men to halt again - and at that point, the statements get very fuzzy.

According to the official statement released Dec. 7 by BART, Crabtree "summoned his canine, but Hall resisted the dog." A medical report filed by Alameda County emergency technicians who examined Hall after the shooting includes no mention of any dog bites or wounds of any sort other than those caused by the shotgun. A copy of the report, which has not been released, was obtained by the Bay Guardian.

Crabtree, the official BART statement continues, "fired a warning shot at a nearby tree. Hall continued to move toward the other suspect, and at one point turned and assumed a position which concealed his hands."

The internal police report, however, states that Owens was the one who was "failing to keep his hands in view," and who, in what the report described as "an effort to get rid of the evidence [Walkman]," put his hands into his pants pockets. At that point, the report states, Crabtree "used deadly force on suspect Hall."

Owens said he responded immediately to the second command to halt, but that Hall kept walking away. When Owens heard the shots, he turned around, "and my partner was lying face down.... Then I heard all the cops coming with sirens."

In fact, within a matter of minutes, at least three more BART police cars and a backup unit from the Hayward Police Department had arrived on the scene. Even if Hall, who by all accounts was walking, not running, had been attempting to "flee," it's unlikely he would have been able to get far.

And after an extensive search of the train, the tracks, the station, the parking lot, and everything else in the vicinity, the BART police acknowledge they were unable to find a gun.

Although the BART police initially insisted that Hall had been shot in the chest, and most of the news reports carried that statement unchallenged, even BART now admits that the shot struck the young man in the back of his head. His father, Cornelius Hall, never had any doubt.

"I'm a trained emergency medical technician," he told the Bay Guardian.