SAN FRANCISCO — A Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer was shot and killed by a partner Tuesday in an apparent accident while conducting a probation search at a Dublin apartment complex, authorities said.
In a brief statement, a somber BART police chief said the officer was the first to die on duty in the department’s history. Taking no questions, Chief Kenton Rainey said he was confirming the “tragic loss” with “a heavy heart.”
“Our condolences go out to the immediate family and friends and the extended BART family,” Rainey said. “We ask that everyone please give us a chance to catch our breath [and] grieve.”
The members of BART’s detective unit were conducting a probation search at a sprawling apartment complex in the eastern Alameda County bedroom community. Alameda County Sheriff’s Sgt. J.D. Nelson, whose department is investigating the incident, said the suspect, who was already in custody, was wanted in connection with “some crimes that had occurred on a train.”
“During that search, it appears one officer accidentally fired his weapon, which struck the other officer and ultimately it was a fatal shot,” said Nelson, the Sheriff’s Department spokesman.
While BART officials have not identified the officer, a website dedicated to fallen officers has identified him as Tom Smith.
The incident occurred shortly before 2 p.m. at the sprawling Park Sierra Apartments.
The slain officer had been on the BART force for more than 20 years, Nelson said. The officer who fired his gun had been on the force for a decade.
Both were wearing bulletproof vests.
The wounded man was taken to Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, where he died. Media photos showed a flag-draped casket being taken away from the hospital by the coroner’s bureau.
Nelson said it was unclear whether the weapon fired accidentally or the shooting was due to a “misidentified target.”
“BART has been informed that one of our officers has died from wounds sustained during a shooting earlier today,” Rainey and General Manager Grace Crunican said in a joint statement earlier in the evening. “The entire BART organization is deeply saddened by this tragic event,” they said, “and we ask the public to keep the officer’s family in its thoughts and prayers.”
BART’s police department came under heavy scrutiny after unarmed passenger Oscar Grant III was fatally shot by an officer at the Fruitvale station in Oakland in 2009. However, a report issued last month by an independent expert found that BART police had made significant progress in enacting reforms.
The expert, Patrick Oliver, noted improvements in the use of force, officer training, community engagement and organizational statements.