OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — The man busted for eating a sandwich at the Pleasant Hill BART station last week has taken a first step in moving toward suing the transit agency.
In a news conference Thursday afternoon, Bay Area civil rights attorney John Burris announced he had filed a claim against BART on behalf of Steven Foster — the man who was taken into custody for eating a breakfast sandwich on a platform at the Pleasant Hill station on the morning of Nov 4th.
“This case smacks of racial profiling and selective law enforcement,” Burris said during the news conference.
Foster says he bought the Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwich from the All Aboard Cafe, which leases spaces from BART at Pleasant Hill station.
“I am aware that I can’t eat on the train. Like, I’ve been taking BART for a while, I’ve seen the signs on the train, but I’ve never been aware that I couldn’t eat on the platform,” Foster said.
Foster says he thought the officer was joking with him until he got grabbed by his Snoopy backpack. That’s when his girlfriend began recording the incident.
“This is like a daily thing for me. I’ve never been stopped for it or seen anyone else get stopped for it,” said Foster.
Burris said officers failed to de-escalate the sandwich situation.
“[They] Immediately got into a confrontational mode as opposed to taking a position to give some advisement to him and let him know that was not appropriate to do so,” said Burris. “If that had happened, Mr. Foster would have easily complied. The sandwich was almost done. He was almost finished with it.”
Keith Garcia, president of the BART Police Officers Association responded to the claim with a statement to KPIX 5: “John Burris will try to make a quick buck through slander and race baiting. I can only hope the BART district judge does not indulge this fantasy.”
BART has 45 days to respond to the claim, which is a pre-cursor to a federal or state civil rights lawsuit.