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Witness: Man Shot by BART Police Was Not 'Running or Lunging' at Officers

Woman who saw fatal shooting says knife-wielding man was moving slowly

Updated July 6, 2011 at 7:51 p.m. 

The knife-wielding man killed by BART police Sunday night was “definitely” not “running or lunging” at the two officers when they shot him, a witness told The Bay Citizen Wednesday.

“He wasn't some spry young thing charging after them with death in his eyes,” said Myleen Hollero, a San Francisco resident. “He definitely was moving toward them, but it didn't look like he was lunging toward them.” 

Hollero was returning to San Francisco from the East Bay and got off a train at about 9:45 p.m. at the Civic Center BART station, where, she said, she watched the incident unfold from about 30 or 40 feet away. She said the man was standing diagonally across the platform from her.

Hollero said that from her view of the incident, police officers should “absolutely not” have shot the man, who she said “just looked like a drunk hippie.”

“He was definitely a Taser candidate,” she said. 

BART has held two press conferences about the incident, but has offered no explanation of why the officers decided to shoot the man. One of the officers was carrying a Taser.

BART Deputy Police Chief Daniel Hartwig said at a news conference Tuesday that the officers confronted “an aggressive suspect who was holding a bottle and a knife.” BART has said the confrontation between the officers and the man lasted one minute.

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

Hollero's account is the first offered by someone who saw the shooting.

She said she was getting off the BART train with her bike at Civic Center when she heard glass break. She turned and saw the man across the platform who, she said, was wearing a green tie-dye shirt and had long white hair. She thought he was just “another drunk guy acting up.”

“I heard yelling, and I stopped and I looked again,” said Hollero. “I saw he was interacting with cops and then I was like, ‘Shit, those cops have guns out.'”

Hollero said she couldn’t hear what the officers were saying and so didn’t understand the context of the exchange.

But she said she saw the BART cops with their guns drawn and the man moving slowly toward them.

She said the man moved "like Frankenstein.” She said she couldn’t tell if he had a knife.

“Then,” she said, “they shot him." 

“I didn’t see who did it,” Hollero continued. “I heard three shots. It made no sense.” 

Hollero said the man went limp and fell forward, but she didn’t hear a scream or see any blood.

Hollero said she didn’t move. Then she said an older woman with a bike looked at her and then started to cry. “People were just really shocked,” Hollero said.

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