The chief of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system has apologized to a man who was detained for eating a sandwich on a platform last week in an incident that was captured on video and went viral, sparking protests.
The passenger, Steve Foster, was cited and released after he was detained last Monday at Pleasant Hill station in Walnut Creek, transit officials said.
“I’m disappointed how the situation unfolded,” BART general manager Bob Powers said in a statement issued Monday. “I apologize to Mr. Foster, our riders, employees, and the public who have had an emotional reaction to the video.”
The transit agency’s independent police auditor is investigating the incident and will report his findings to the BART police citizen review board, Powers said.
The 15-minute video posted to social media shows Foster engaged in a heated argument with a BART police officer, who grasps the strap of Foster’s backpack as the two men stand on a platform of the station.
“The officer asked the rider not to eat while passing by on another call,” Powers said. “It should have ended there, but it didn’t. When the officer walked by again and still saw him eating, he moved forward with the process of issuing him a citation.”
The video shows the officer continuing to hold onto the strap of Foster’s backpack while repeatedly advising him that he is not free to leave and is going to end up being sent to jail. Foster declines to give his name or provide identification, saying he’s done nothing wrong. Additional officers then arrive, handcuff Foster and walk him off the platform to a room elsewhere in the station, the video shows.
Foster was cited with violating a statute that bans eating or drinking on transit systems where such activities are prohibited. He could face a $250 fine or 48 hours of community service, a BART spokeswoman said.
The incident was first reported by ABC-TV Channel 7.
Several dozen people gathered at the Embarcadero and Pleasant Hill BART stations on Saturday to eat on the platforms in protest, ABC7 reported. Another “eat-in” is scheduled for Saturday, according to a Facebook event listing that had more than 500 RSVPs as of Monday morning.
“The officer was doing his job, but context is key,” Powers said in the statement. “Enforcement of infractions such as eating and drinking inside our paid area should not be used to prevent us from delivering on our mission to provide safe, reliable, and clean transportation. We have to read each situation and allow people to get where they are going on time and safely.”