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BART Board Wants Police to Speed Up Shooting Investigation

"It's still not really clear" why officers killed Charles Hill, one director said

Several members of BART's Board of Directors urged BART's police chief to "accelerate" the investigation into the fatal shooting of Charles Hill. At their meeting Thursday, they also pressured the agency's new independent police auditor to be "a whole lot more hands on." 

Two BART police officers shot and killed Hill, 45, on the platform at Civic Center station on July 3. BART police have said that Hill, a homeless man was inebriated and armed with two knives and a bottle, but they haven't said what happened in the minute-long exchange between Hill and the officers that led to the shooting.  One witness has told The Bay Citizen that Hill was moving slowly before he was shot.

BART police have shot and killed three people in the past three years.

BART came under intense scrutiny for its lack of transparency following the 2009 shooting of Oscar Grant by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle. Director James Fang said he doesn’t want the same thing to happen again.

“A lesson learned from the Oscar Grant tragedy was that there was no information going out,” Fang said. “It’s been about 14 days, and it’s still not really clear what has happened.” 

Fang asked BART Police Chief Kenton Rainey to work with San Francisco Police Department, which is leading the investigation, “to accelerate” the pace so that the public can get some answers.

Rainey told the board that the “complex” investigation, is in the hands of the SFPD, who have interviewed about half of the 40 people who witnessed the shooting. He said that SFPD plans to provide its chief of police with a progress report in 45 days.

Rainey also said that SFPD does not want to make the surveillance video, which captured part of the incident, to be made public. At a press conference last week, BART officials said they wanted the public to see the video.

An activist who gave his name only as Krystof, questioned conflicting reports about an injury to one of the officers involved in the shooting. Chief Rainey said that the officer received minor cuts on the arm, but refused to say if they were from Hill's knife or bottle.

Director Lynette Sweet also called on Mark Smith, the agency’s brand-new Independent Police Auditor, to be more involved. Smith started work just days before the shooting and didn’t have his work-issued Blackberry set up until days after.

“You have to be a whole lot more hands on,” Sweet said. “We are relying on you and the civilian review board to be our eyes and ears.”

Smith said that he is monitoring BART’s internal investigation of the shooting incident and reviewing evidence.

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