Killed for riding while poor

A young man was shot for not having a transfer


OPINION We sat together: elders, youth, workers, students, and folks. We were on our way to a low-paid job, an overpriced university, a pre-gentrified home and a public school. There was laughter and shouts, murmurs and silence. Then suddenly, there were nine heavily armed police officers and fare inspectors walking through the crowded 14 Mission Muni line. One stopped in front of me and my son.

"I don't have a transfer, I lost it," I tentatively answered a cop who asked to see my paperwork as I clutched my son's stroller and tried to see how close I was to the back door of the bus.

"We will have to write you a citation and you will have to step off the bus — now." He was yelling at me and was flanked by another officer. I knew I couldn't make a run for it, but I almost tried.

I thought of this moment when I heard about the 19-year-old man shot by the SFPD while running away from a Muni bus because he didn't have a transfer in the Bayview July 16.

Shot and killed for not having $2 bus fare.

At a press conference held July 18 at the scene of the shooting, Joanne Abernathy from People Organized to Win Employment Rights made the point: "No one should be shot for not having enough money to ride the bus."

For the last few years, police presence on Muni has increased — as have attacks on poor people and people of color whose only crime is not having enough money to ride the increasingly expensive so-called public transportation known as Muni. From fare inspectors working for Muni to fully armed officers, they form a terrifying mob waiting menacingly at bus stops in the Mission, Ingleside, Bayview, and Tenderloin, and then enter buses to harass, eject, and cite anyone too poor to ride.

The police said the man pointed a gun. That's what they consistently claim when rationalizing involved shootings. Several eyewitnesses said otherwise.

But before we get caught up in whether he had a gun or not, let's stay with the real point: this young man was shot for not having a transfer. He was shot for not having $2. How did we get here?

Even if you are a supporter of the police, you have to see the Les Miserables-esque insanity in this shooting.

Police culture enables, allows, and encourages the use of deadly force — so much so that it seems at times as if killing can happen for any old thing. Throw in institutional racism and classism, and more and more people will not only be incarcerated but killed with impunity.

"Don't get on the bus again if you don't have the fare or you might be arrested," the cop on Muni told me. He ended by giving me a citation and kicking me off the bus. He should have added "killed" to his threat of what would happen to us for riding while poor.

Tiny, also known as Lisa Gray-Garcia, is coeditor of POOR Magazine.



Let's doubt the author is of color, clueless about how the rest of us go through our lives.

He was NOT shot for not having $2.00. He fare evaded. He ran. The cops chased him, and he SHOT AT THEM, you fricking MORON!

You shoot at a cop, you get shot at. No recourse.

And oh look...this guy already did time for violent RAPE. Nice guy. Go ahead and make him your poster child you clueless fricking idiot. He was ALSO wanted relative to ANOTHER SHOOTING in WASHINGTON. Again...hell of a guy. Let's have a parade for him.


Posted by Ken Howard on Jul. 19, 2011 @ 4:24 pm

Seems like witnesses disagree with your version. They say he didn't pull a gun. I'm more inclined to believe neutral passers-by than the story of someone who has a stake in the outcome of an investigation, like a cop.

If he didn't pull a gun, this is murder.

Posted by Greg on Jul. 19, 2011 @ 5:45 pm

If they're cop-hating, villian-loving liberal parasites like you, then this juror is going to acquit any cop so charged.

Posted by Walter on Jul. 19, 2011 @ 6:03 pm

You're going overboard, maybe villain loving though.

I would guess most of the people who are claiming to be witnesses and claiming that dude didn't shoot at the cops, those people couldn't tell you who their district rep is or what the two major parties are even. Just doing business and keeping it real.

Posted by matlock on Jul. 19, 2011 @ 6:22 pm

Because the police just love to shoot people. It's so wonderful for their careers and for their psyche as well.

Funny how in the Bayview it's never the fault of the person involved in an altercation with the police.

Posted by Lucretia "Secretia" Snapples on Jul. 19, 2011 @ 6:04 pm

identify with.

There again, what else would someone with nothing to lose squander his time and enengy on?

Posted by Walter on Jul. 19, 2011 @ 6:11 pm

I don't know if that's always true, and I'm still inclined to believe ordinary citizens more than either party that had a stake in the conflict, but there does seem to be an element of anti-police bias in the Bayview. I would submit, that if the reputation of the police is such that many ordinary law-abiding citizens are disinclined to cooperate with them (often to the point of sabotaging police work), the problem is not with the citizenry, but with the police.

Posted by Greg on Jul. 19, 2011 @ 9:39 pm

There are actually a hand full of witnesses that said they saw shots fired from the 19 year old. I'm more inclined to believe neutral passers-by than the story of someone who has a stake in the outcome of an investigation, like a cop.

He pulled a gun on the cop, its murder, but the 19 year old should of thought of the consequences.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 19, 2011 @ 6:17 pm

That is not murder. Murder is a premeditated killing.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 21, 2011 @ 10:18 am

It seems tipped the cops to the persons who picked up what may have been the weapon that dead dude used to shoot at the cops.

A neutral passerby filmed and then put on you tube a picture of said gun laying on the street around 15 feet from dead dude.

Chief of police thanked citizens of the neighborhood for tipping citizens of the neighborhood to where gun was.

Posted by matlock on Jul. 19, 2011 @ 6:28 pm

Apparently, he shot at the cops with one of them there new-fangled invisible undetectable guns. Once they're fired, they can never be found or proven to exist.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 19, 2011 @ 10:14 pm

Firstly: Check your racism at the door! "no doubt the author is of colour" what the fuck? Also, of course you believe that this man you know nothing about could have done all those things the fucking police have said he's done, black men are always killing and raping, right?

Secondly, why wouldn't the police pin all of those things on this man, he's dead so he can't defend himself.

Thirdly: you shoot at a cop, they are trained to disarm you, they are definitely not trained to fire at least 10 shots that aim for your neck and back. They are also trained to save lives, once they saw that he was down, they should have called for an ambulance, instead of training their guns at his head.

who's the idiot?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 20, 2011 @ 5:41 am

I am not racist...I hate all stupid people, no matter what their color.

You might wanna cheeck your facts, buttbrain, the dead guy DID TIME for the rape. Convicted. Guilty. PRISON. You moron. He was also wanted relative to a shooting in Seattle. Again, nice fricking guy. Why didn't you just bring him home with you, eh?

Now more facts. The dead guy had gunshot residue on his hands. There is video of the gun near the guy. There are witness statements that the guy shot first.

So now your next moronic statement. OK...disarm the guy. How far away was he? Little far for a wristlock, eh? And are you REALLY going to use that old bullshit about "shooting the gun out of his hand"? Have you ever FIRED a gun? Have you ever been shot at? I doubt it. I also understand it was 9 or 10 shots, not AT LEAST 10, idiot. And cops carry LOTS of ammo....if they were overboard they would have shot him like 30 or 40 times. So much for that statement.

I believe an ambulance was called, otherwise he would NOT have gotten to the hospital, where he died. He did NOT die at the scene. Cops do save lives, every day. I wonder what you would be saying if this dead idiot hit some kid with a wild shot. Maybe YOURS. Maybe even YOU.

So...who's the idiot, YOU. Case closed.

Posted by Ken Howard on Jul. 20, 2011 @ 6:13 am

He didn't do time for rape. Get your facts correct! He did time for pimping, which was not only a one-time thing, but was an attempt that never even got off the ground. If Harding was white, he's attract comparisons to Woody Allen in "Take the Money and Run."

Second, why was the gun so near yet not discovered until a crowd could impede the vision of the officers? That gun was planted! And if it was his, why haven't the proper authorities claimed that his fingerprints are on it? the fact that the cops were too busy aiming their guns at him while he lay in his own blood and not assisting him with their training as first-responders reflects this being an execution, not an accident.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 21, 2011 @ 8:43 am

I'll clear some of this up for you.

Someone took off with the gun, how do you suppose they would test it for finger prints when its gone through any number of hands, any of which could have cleaned it. It would seem from reports a citizen of the community tipped the cops to the location of the gun.

Cops are trained to keep there guns on a shooter until the gun is recovered, lest the guy rolls over and shoots them. They probably assumed the gun was under him, so did not look for it as the locals closed in.

The execution part of your post. disgusting.

Posted by matlock on Jul. 21, 2011 @ 9:21 am

You sound very knowledgable about police practices. You must be an academy instructor, what with your special insights about law enforcement and all.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 20, 2011 @ 9:30 pm

"You sound very knowledgable" Troll Alert! Empty Dumb Attack

Posted by vigilante on Jul. 21, 2011 @ 2:02 am

I am wondering, Ken, how do "the rest of us go through our lives"? and how does someone of "color" go through their lives"? please do educate the readers so that they can understand who the "rest of us" vs. someone of "color" looks like.

With your wealth of knowledge regarding the history of increased police presence in communities through out the U.S., the rapidly increasing development of prisons and the disproportionately high rates of incarceration of men of African-descent and men indigenous to the Americas ( some might consider calling them men of "color" or black and latino men), I'm sure you can understand how people might first, have concerns with armed people policing MUNI riders, who are predominantly people not of european-descent and who are of low-income status. AND second, I'm sure you could also understand why people and organizations might heavily question SFPD's allegations that this young man of African-descent shot at them after not having a 2 dollar transfer.

do you understand that? and please do answer those questions up top..

thanks ken

Posted by Guest omelocs on Jul. 20, 2011 @ 7:54 am

Why was George Wallace's racialism looked down on, but this is the pinnacle of new left intellectualism and racialism?

Please explain.

Posted by matlock on Jul. 20, 2011 @ 8:20 am

First of all....lets's see....could the reason there are so many blacks and latinos (your words to use, not mine) incarcerated is that THEY ARE THE ONES WHO ARE DOING THE CRIMES, YOU CLUELESS MORON? If they didn't commit the crimes they would not be in prison. And PLEASE don't even start with the "rush to justice" and that crap. Most of them were found guilty by juries. Who, I am sure, had at least some black/latino members. Nice try there.

I have no problem with armed police patrolling MUNI. All for it. But I am a law abiding citizen, so of course I'm for it. Those who are not are usually criminals who don't want to be kept from their chosen profession - breaking the fricking laws. So I guess you would be simply handing over your wallet/purse/cell phone/Ipad/Ipod/what have you with a smile and a thank you? Doubtful. You people are the first ones to scream when you feel you are not protected. You cannot have it both ways.

The "allegations" were not just from the SFPD. Unless you choose to ignore the cellphone video showing the gun, OR the number of witnesses who stated they saw this "paragon of humanity" firing at the cops, OR the fact this "paragon" had gunshot residue on his hand. But of course...hell with the facts, on with the protest. If you did not protest, gods forbid, you might have to consider yourself inconsequential.

And how did destruction of property serve as a protest? All it did was get a bunch of you arrested. NOW you can be cheek and jowl with those fine, upstanding citizens you are championing. Have fun. Just don't drop the soap.

The guy ran cause #1, he was wanted in Seattle and knew that he would be picked up. #2, he was an idiot. Had he paid his $2.00 he would be alive today to prey on SF citizens as he did Seattle's. But he IS a paragon of humanity, now isn't he?

Posted by Ken Howard on Jul. 20, 2011 @ 9:04 am

or maybe you don't need to.

as a white man (i know your white), do you think you have more privileges then non-white people in the united states? do you think that racism and classism still exists within the judicial system or criminal justice system within the U.S.?

I'm serious..answer those questions honestly??? and don't give the ol' "well there are sour apples but not really."

come on, make me think! cause i'm starting to get bored with your tip of the iceberg/portrait view, give me a landscape view of how the power structures play out on a systemic level.

or do you really think that as a white man you get treated equally the same as people of african-descent or indigenous to the americas??

seriously, answer those questions - putting aside the incident that occurred with the cops and that young man.

for real..and the moron and idiot statements kinda drown out your intellect. just saying.

Posted by Guest omelocs on Jul. 20, 2011 @ 11:22 am

More privileges? No. Any person who wants to work as hard as I have at what I do gets the same privileges I have...which aren't exactly many.

Does racism exist? Yeah. Does REVERSE-racism exist? Yeah. How many people get blown out of proportion as soon as a black guy gets hurt or killed. Bet if it was a white boy they wouldn't turn a hair other than to perhaps applaud. I have seen/heard that happen.

Sorry, tis not my job to make you think. OR tell you what to think. If you choose to mock me, hey...go for it. Couldn't care less. However, it is nice to see I'm in the majority this time.

As to whether I get treated the same, that's too broad a question. That has to be cut down to instances/people, etc. Bigotry and racism is found in both whites and blacks. If you deny that, then you are a liar.

Personally, I don't consider myself a racist. If you are stupid, narrowminded, cruel, etc., I can't stand you no matter what your race.

Posted by Ken Howard on Jul. 20, 2011 @ 12:50 pm

Ken, you say you can't stand people who are "stupid, narrowminded, cruel, etc. " I don't say this to disparage you but I'm often shocked by the violence of your response to issues like this one. I don't think you are stupid, but your ignorance of how the justice system works is glaring.

For instance, you say~ "And PLEASE don't even start with the "rush to justice" and that crap. Most of them were found guilty by juries. Who, I am sure, had at least some black/latino members."

Well, don't take my word for it, but here's what Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Reagan had to say about "America's Injustice System" (his title)~

"In the US the wrongful conviction rate is extremely high. One reason is that hardly any of the convicted have had a jury trial. No peers have heard the evidence against them and found them guilty. In the US criminal justice (sic) system, more than 95% of all felony cases are settled with a plea bargain."

It is also well-documented that the criminal justice is inherently biased against people of color in everything from arrest and sentencing to the composition of juries. If a conservatives like Craig Roberts can recognize how flawed the sytem is, you might at least open your mind to the possibility, Ken.

Your specious argument about "reverse racism" might work if whites were systematically turned down for the jobs, discriminated against in the housing market, denied access to loans, incarcerated without a trial, and denied equal opportunties on a consistent basis. But this is not the case. Whites still enjoy unprecedented power and privilege in our society.

Perhaps you don't intend it, but you often come across as narrowminded and callous in your own right. My plea to you, Ken, is to educate yourself before you spout off. Just saying.

Posted by Lisa on Jul. 20, 2011 @ 2:09 pm

I wrote the comment above, not Lisa Tiny Gray-Garcia. Sorry, I should have included my last name, so as not to be confused with the author of this piece.

Posted by Lisa Pelletier on Jul. 21, 2011 @ 3:32 pm

The iceberg view is only looking at one country, the US, and not globally.

"The truth is out there."

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2011 @ 11:30 am

You need to get a clue, or buy one for that matter. There are just as many white collar blue eyed devils in prison if not more. I have no sympathy for the stupid narrow minded remarks that are coming from you. It is a shame that in 2011 we still have the jim crow reject running around the country. I will read your posts but I am glad that my parents raised me to pray for the wicked and the stupid. Both of which I think describes you.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2011 @ 3:15 pm

Sure, but if you go by percentages then racial "minorities" outside jail are actually the majority in prison. Since many prisoners are uneducated, from poor communities, drug/alcohol users it is easy to get confused between rednecks and ghetto boys. That's when we have to breakout skin color.

Posted by chelsea on Jul. 28, 2011 @ 3:08 pm

If you consider the murder rate of african americans they are not incarcerated disproportionately to the rest of America.

An honest discussion would include the murder and incarceration rate for Asian men.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2011 @ 11:34 am

If he were wanted as part of a murder investigation it makes perfect sense to me that he would run.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2011 @ 11:37 am

This Idiot knows a lot about the victim.... Person of colour??? Now wait. Is this 1876 or 1877

Posted by Guest on Jul. 22, 2011 @ 7:03 am

Should it matter what color he is? No one has the right to take someones life. You speak of the shooting in Seattle, that has not been proven because fact of the matter is he can no longer defend himself against all of the negativity that is being plauged upon him. I look at him not as a person of color but as an unfortunate individual that was cut down before getting his life in order. Looking at your comment I can tell that you are a white person, probably that has never been frightened for your life because of the color of your skin. I used to drive public transportation and there were so many people white, black, hispanic and asian alike that did not pay their fare. Each and everyone of them went home without fear of being killed for not paying. So when you want to start downing and blasting someone for having problems in their life, stop and look at the history in your own family. I bet you there are members that have done things that you wouldnt want your friends and co-workers to know about. Judge not so that you will not be judged!!!

Posted by Guest on Jul. 25, 2011 @ 2:57 pm

Guess YOU were fare evading as well, now weren't you?

You have children but don't have $2.00? Let's see....another one of those that my tax dollars pay for? Nice. Real nice. How you gonna pay your citation? Right. You won't. Then your next report can be from jail, hopefully.

Posted by Ken Howard on Jul. 19, 2011 @ 4:26 pm

Even considering that this dumbass could have avoided any interaction with law enforcement had he simply paid his damn fare.

I've never understand this about criminals - they dress conspicuously, they hang out in places where criminals are known to congregate, they associate with other criminals - in short, they make it easy for the police to catch them. Like

Criminals aren't necessarily dumb - it takes a lot of cunning and brain power to run a criminal enterprise. But when they act like this dipshit they ARE dumb.

And Tiny is a white stripper - she's not a "person of color."

Posted by Lucretia "Secretia" Snapples on Jul. 19, 2011 @ 4:50 pm

My apologies.

Posted by Lucretia "Secretia" Snapples on Jul. 19, 2011 @ 6:17 pm

I pray someone you care about is shot and killed by the police for jay walking.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 19, 2011 @ 10:15 pm

Was this person convicted for recruiting teens for forced prostitution?

Was this person a person of interest in a murder?

Was this mythical person shooting at cops because he was afraid they would run his name and toss him in jail?

I've written off relatives for far less than that.

I have far more empathy for the regular citizens of the neighborhood who have to suffer his antics.

Posted by matlock on Jul. 19, 2011 @ 10:40 pm

Mainly to yourself. You really should have your head examined.

Posted by Lucretia "Secretia" Snapples on Jul. 20, 2011 @ 9:28 am

Superstitious also? And let me guess, god will answer your prayers for someone to be shot. Fine god you have there.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 20, 2011 @ 11:27 am

you're the one wishing it.

Posted by chelsea on Jul. 28, 2011 @ 3:23 pm

They are dumb. They drive without a brake light or expired inspection stickers, they wear sagging pants, the national uniform of derpy criminals, and hang out with other criminals who also flaunt such traits and have the loyalty of a prostitute.

As for criminal enterprise, you won't see those guys getting shot running from the cops. They ususally will stash their cash in an offshore bank and wait out their sentence in a nice minimum security prison.

Posted by chelsea on Jul. 28, 2011 @ 3:21 pm

"But before we get caught up in whether he had a gun or not, let's stay with the real point: this young man was shot for not having a transfer. He was shot for not having $2. How did we get here?"

John Wayne Gacy was killed for having a house that smelled like cadavers.

Posted by Matlock on Jul. 19, 2011 @ 5:17 pm

It's pretty much never a great thing to shoot a nineteen year old to death.

Posted by Leah Lakshmi on Jul. 19, 2011 @ 9:54 pm

Unless of course the little thug is shooting at you. Good riddance.

Posted by RSai on Jul. 21, 2011 @ 9:02 am

I work in San Francisco and live in Oakland. I split my free time about evenly. I commute on BART all the time. It's the best mass transit system I've ever used, and I've used quite a few. I've moved around a lot, and I didn't grow up here. I am, however, going to warn you all how this ends if you can't figure out how to have a police force that works, and live with it.

I'm a software engineer with a background in digital multimedia. Specifically, recording digital video, delivering it over the internet, storing it, and analyzing it. I worked with Howard Gordon to start Surveyor Corporation, prior to 9/11.

The fact of the matter is that a low-end surveillance camera costs less to operate for a year than a 60 watt lightbulb.

If a city perceives its police as untrustworthy, or if a city's police force perceives the residents as untrustworthy, third-party surveillance will be required to provide a reliable witness.

I can assure you, to a degree that screaming about until I'm blue in the face would still render a gross understatement, that modern technology, for very modest rates, design and deliver a system that, when pointed at an area of concern, will permanently record, hash-timestamp, and archive video footage-- period. Tampering can be ruled out by simply making footage available so rapidly that the crowd will be able to copy and share it before it can be pulled and tampered with. The technical end of this is a solved problem, and the solution is cheap.

But everyone needs to think very carefully about whether or not that is actually what they want, because if you can't sort this out on your own, I can assure you that is what you will get. It's simply a matter of time. The experiment will be far too cheap to run for anyone to argue with it, and once run, the results WILL be "successful".

Societies require police. Police require citizen support. Surveillance keeps people honest, but surveillance changes ALL behaviour, not just antisocial behaviour.

I think we all need to straighten our shirts a bit and come up with a better solution here, before it isn't just those old relics that you can actually see recording us.

I mean, you do know that you can't actually SEE a state-of-the-art surveillance camera... right?

I don't have a side here. But I have a bad feeling about how this ends. Avoid putting other people in a position to preclude your own common sense. You may come to regret it.

Posted by Matt Heck on Jul. 19, 2011 @ 11:24 pm

Most excellent and well-written reply. Kudos.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 20, 2011 @ 10:37 am

umm funny that we cry about budget but our politicians and police get new cars and toys from our money while poor people have to wait longer for a bus that prices go up every year. Funny that media dig deep into this youth pass but we don't know the pass of the police. Funny that in D.C. a disabled man who uses a electric scooter was slam down to the side walk by metro police and now this. Funny that I was snatched off my treck (Three wheel bike) because I was on the sidewalk. Funny how some people say well in each case people were breaking the law or another excuse. How funny how certain people can break a law and nothing happens. I've seen my picnic goers drinking in public, have seen police park in disabled spaces and ride their bikes on sidewalks and seen many people in suite and tie throwing away their transfers while on the bus just throw it on the ground but they are not stopped and questioned. My thing is why are their two laws? If we are going to ask one person to do something then why not everybody? Can I issue out tickets when I see cops park in the disabled spot, can I ask the guy with a three piece suite on where is his transfer or can a snatch a cop off his bike when I see him/her ridding on the sidewalk or better yet can I take away politicians and wealth people's cars away so we can all wait on the same corner with the same amount of money in our pockets for a city bus that have been cut but the fare continue to go up? When that time has come then we can talk about who is right and who is wrong. In the meantime ask yourself why is there only side of the story publicly known.

Funny but its not funny when it happens to you!

Leroy Moore

Posted by Guest Leroy on Jul. 19, 2011 @ 11:47 pm
Posted by matlock on Jul. 20, 2011 @ 12:58 am

This is where technology is lovely. If you see all this happening, take pictures. You have a right to do this as a citizen of this country. Take pictures of police officers breaking laws and send them to their captains or to the media. Start a blog and expose corrupt behavior. Not all cops are like that, some abide the law and some think they're above it. If you see only one side of story being told, write a letter to the editor telling your or that other person's side. Just be honest about it.

Time to step up and use the freedoms we have in this country.

Posted by chelsea on Jul. 28, 2011 @ 3:37 pm

Riding MUNI is an option not a right. There are days when I don't have the $2. Guess what...I don't take public transportation that day! I walk or find other options like asking a friend for a ride. If your job requires it..budget it in. It is after all only $2 which is actually really cheap compared to other cities.
Also Struggling in SF

Posted by Guest on Jul. 20, 2011 @ 9:10 am

Maybe we can solve this by making MUNI free? Pay for it with higher taxes on the rich, and as an added benefit, nobody has to die for the "crime" of not having $2.

Of course now I'm going to get pilloried for being some kind of "villain-loving socialist" or something like that.

Sigh. Why do I get the distinct feeling that for some people, giving cops another excuse to kill, is actually a feature of the system and not a bug?

Posted by Greg on Jul. 20, 2011 @ 9:28 am

Also from this author

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    A party without my friends

  • Gated communities of hate

    When did we start believing that only certain people deserve to be out in public?