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Witness of BART Shooting: 'At First I Thought It Was Fireworks'

BART police offer no details on why cops shot guns instead of Tasers

Edwin Li’s BART train was arriving at Civic Center Station at about 9:45 p.m. Sunday night, when he heard three shots ring out.

“At first,” said Li, a standup comedian, “I thought it was some fireworks.” Then through a train window, he saw people running on the platform. One of his fellow passengers said, "Somebody really got shot."

When the doors opened, Li said he got off the train to take a look. He said he saw two officers and a man down on the platform. When the train operator said the Daly City-bound train was leaving, Li got back on and headed home.

Li said he had no idea until he got home that BART police had killed a man.

On Tuesday, BART police announced that they had recovered three shell casings from the platform.

Why two BART police officers decided it was necessary to shoot a “wobbly drunken,” knife-wielding man only one minute after arriving on the scene remains unclear. 

At a press conference Tuesday morning, BART Deputy Police Chief Daniel Hartwig, said, "The officers confronted an aggressive suspect who was holding a bottle and a knife.” But he wouldn’t say why the officers shot a gun instead of using a Taser to subdue the suspect, citing the ongoing investigation.

“In any deadly force situation, the Taser is tool of availability,” said Hartwig. “The officers are going to make split second decisions about how to respond.”

Only one of the officers had a Taser, but Hartwig wouldn't identify which one. He also wouldn't say which officer shot the suspect.  He did say that the officers -- one with six years on the force, the other with 14 months -- were trained on how to use Tasers. Both officers have been placed on administrative leave.

Beginning Monday, all BART police officers will be required to carry Tasers.

Hartwig said that a surveillance camera captured part of the incident and that police had interviewed several witnesses. He called on anyone with cell phone footage to come forward.

On Tuesday afternoon, the San Francisco Medical Examiner identified the man but said the office was withholding details while they notified his next of kin. Hartwig said the man is Caucasian and between 35 and 50. At the time of the shooting, he was wearing a tie-dyed t-shirt and army fatigues.

The San Francisco Police Department and BART are conducting separate investigations. Both officers have been interviewed and have been placed on paid administrative leave until the investigations wrap up.

The shooting comes less than two years after BART policeman Johannes Mehserle shot and killed an unarmed black man, Oscar Grant. Following that shooting, Mehserle refused to talk to investigators, and BART delayed making public statements. In the two day's since Sunday's shooting, BART Police have held two press conferences and promise to release information in a timely manner.

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