The man who was tased had a warrant for his arrest, but the officer who did the tasing didn't know that at the time. BART policy says a Taser should only be used on an individual who poses an immediate threat. BART Police Chief Kenton Rainey says that was the case, but others don't see it.
Cellphone video captured by a BART rider shows a BART police officer tasing a man who passengers reported was drunk and harassing people at the Millbrae station on the night of January 29. In the beginning, the man identified as 43-year-old Robert Asberry looks like he's being confrontational with a single BART police officer who tases him.
You can hear the BART officer tell Asberry several times to get off the train; he refuses. Later, with three officers standing over him, the BART officer tases Asberry again.
A woman, who was on the train, blogged about the incident on Medium.com, calling the tasing excessive, unnecessary and dehumanizing. She said she had been talking to the man and did not feel threatened by him.
"As long as that individual's hands are still free, he poses a threat to the officers," said Rainey. Rainey told ABC7 News from what he can see on the video, he believes his officer acted within department policy in tasing Asberry. "When he didn't comply, he tried to physically have the suspect standup and remove him from the train, the suspect spun around, faced him in what we call a pre-assaultive stance and behavior and that when the officer drew his Taser."
Rainey saw the woman's blog posting and has called for an internal investigation. He won't say whether he agrees with the officer's actions until the investigation is complete, but he did say the man should have done what the officer said. He told ABC7 News, "In my years of policing experience, when somebody acts the way this person did there's usually something else going on and low and behold we find out at the end this guy has a felony no bail warrant out of the California Department of Corrections."
"Even though he wasn't that cooperative, that doesn't mean you get to just tase him," said Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris. He thinks the second tasing is particularly troublesome. "You don't see the threat and that's the part that's troubling. This is the concern we've always had with Tasers, that you're supposed to use it in a defensive position, but here it was being used offensively."
Rainey says the incident should've been recorded by the BART officer's lapel camera, but he hasn't seen that video. As is routine in any use of force case, the department's independent police auditor will investigate.
ABC7 News asked a few people on the street what they thought of the video; many agreed with the chief, that the man should have obeyed.
"He should've gotten off the train and did what they said. There's a lot of drunk people on there and they throw up all over the place and it's terrible," said Richmond resident David Drisdale.
But the second Tasing, when he's on the ground, made some uncomfortable.
"That's unnecessary right there, they got more than enough officers," said Oakland resident Joel Isaac.
"What I did see was the suspect kicking, still struggling, fighting with the officers," said Rainey.
The woman who wrote the blog did say in her post that the cop did give ample warning, but she said she didn't feel that the man was a threat. She declined to comment with ABC7 News.
The officer is still on the job and the chief said the investigation should take about a month.