SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Newly-released police body cam video shows a Bay Area Rapid Transit passenger scuffling with BART officers during an arrest. Meanwhile, the San Francisco Public Defender claims the man’s pregnant girlfried suffered a miscarriage as a result of being also forcibly detained during the incident.
The incident happened back in July when BART officers responded to a report that a passenger who was possibly armed tried to rob another passenger. Other witnesses disputed the report, saying the reporting party called police after some sort of diagreement with the passenger.
Video of the violent arrest was released Wednesday by the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office. The passenger, Michael Smith, was acquitted last week of battery on an officer. He was not armed during the confrontation. Public Defender Jeff Adachi called on prosecutors to drop the remaining misdemeanor charges against Smith.
BART Police Body Cam, Surveillance and Witness Video (Warning: explicit language)
The video shows officers with guns drawn confronting Smith as he steps off a train at Embarcadero Station. Smith is seen struggling with officers who forced him down, pinning him on his stomach. BART officials said Smith bit, kicked and spit on the officers.
Smith looked to be relatively calm until an officer also took down his girlfriend, keeping a knee in her back even after being informed she was pregnant.
Adachi said the woman, Andrea Appleton, miscarried in her first trimester as a result of the officer’s actions. “The officer had his knee in her back for 21 seconds,” he said.
In the video, Smith continues to struggle with officers even as he is restrained and at one point, he spits at an officer who responds by punching Smith in the face.
Adachi said Wednesday the man who called 911 on Smith falsely accused Smith of threatening him. “The person who made the false report has gotten off scott-free,” said Adachi. “Nothing happened to him and that’s the real injustice in this case.”
A BART spokeswoman issued a statement regarding the case Wednesday. “BART Police’s Internal Affairs investigation regarding the Michael Smith case is ongoing; the agency’s goal is to complete all Internal Affairs investigations within 6 months,” said spokeswoman Alicia Trost. “Once the Internal Affairs investigation is complete, the Office of the Independent Police Auditor conducts a review of the investigation and findings to ensure it is complete, objective, and fair.”
In the statement, Trost said it is not against BART policy to detain a pregnant woman. “In this case, it was not clear or known if the female was pregnant. She was not visibly showing. After the adult female said she was pregnant, body cameras show the officer treated her with respect, stood her up in a comfortable position almost immediately, moved her away from possibly injury that could occur and asked her about her wellbeing or if she needed medical attention, which she declined.”
Trost said Smith was not cooperative during the arrest and the reporting party had said he believed Smith was armed. Adachi successfully argued in court that Smith had a reasonable response to the excessive force used by police against him and his companion after they had been racially profiled.
Trost maintained in her statement that BART Police is now on the forefront of training to deal with racially-charged situations.
“BART Police is a progressive agency and has been on the forefront – and in some cases the model approach – to training in the areas of fair and impartial policing, bias-based policing, crisis intervention, cultural competence training, and de-escalation training,” she said.
An independent auditor found BART Police has made significant reforms since an unarmed passenger, Oscar Grant III, was fatally shot by police at the Fruitvale station in 2009.
Carlos E. Castañeda is Senior Editor, News & Social Media for CBS San Francisco and a San Francisco native. You can follow him on Twitter or send him an email.