By Juliette Goodrich

OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — A night at the San Francisco Opera ended with a terrifying real-life drama for a woman when she sat near a BART passenger who was yelling at riders and waving a machete.

Cindy Soto was heading home when the terrifying scene unfolded aboard the BART train.

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“He had a yellow duffel bag and he had four knives in it,” said Soto.

“He became irritated when someone asked if they could sit next to him – he got irate and yelled, ‘No!’”

Man spotted on BART with machete (Cindy Soto)

“He grabbed his hand and pulled out a knife, he raised up the knife and that’s the first time we saw and noticed exactly what he had,” said Soto.

That’s when Soto grabbed her phone and discreetly took a photo.

“They are like butcher knives,” said Soto.

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Soto said the man’s behavior was even more disturbing.

“He pulled up the knife and held it up to his throat at least two or three times and he also threatened a little girl when she tried to come through the doors and sit next to him – that’s when everybody just started to panic,” said Soto. “He said, ‘No, you can’t sit here’ – and he held up the knife in his hands again.”

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Soto said she looked around the train and saw a phone number posted for BART Police.

“I was really nervous to call – afraid he was going to hear me since I was so close to him,” she said.

It was at the West Oakland BART station when the train came to a halt and BART police were already on the platform.

“They opened the doors and came on BART with their guns and told everybody to get out,” said Soto. “I think he was shocked. I was shaking at this point.”

The incident comes at a time when BART passengers are already on heightened alert following three homicides in the month of July on the BART system, including the fatal attack on 18-year-old Nia Wilson at the MacArthur Station in July. A transient and convicted felon, John Lee Cowell, has been charged in her murder.

Along with stepped up patrols, BART is also looking into high-tech weapon scanners. Until that happens, it takes vigilant BART riders like Soto to be another added layer of protection for passengers.

“It took a good couple of hours for the adrenaline to go down and I could sleep,” she said.

The man with the machete was not formally charged. Instead, he was taken to a hospital for a mental evaluation.

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BART says in addition to calling their toll-free police number (877-679-7000), passengers who want to report suspicious behavior can also download the BART Watch app and text dispatchers, who will send police out immediately.

Juliette Goodrich