Response to San Francisco Chronicle story dated January 29, 2009
The following should give you a better overview of many key points the San Francisco Chronicle article dated January 29, 2009 titled "BART Shooting Probe Missteps" may not have fully addressed.
BART POLICE INVESTIGATION:
BART's investigation into the officer-involved shooting began immediately after it happened New Year's morning. The District Attorney's investigative team arrived on the scene at BART Police Headquarters where officers and witnesses were interviewed within the first hours following the shooting. While a team of nine BART detectives investigated the case, the District Attorney was conducting its own, parallel independent investigation. The Oakland Police Department and a prosecutor from the Attorney General's office joined the District Attorney's investigation. On January 12, BART completed the preliminary investigation and turned over their findings to the District Attorney in an unusually quick time frame.
INTERVIEW WITH MEHSERLE:
When the investigation began on the morning of January 1, BART detectives attempted to interview former BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle who was taken to BART Police headquarters and sequestered. BART did ask the officer for a statement at the time of the incident but he invoked his Fifth Amendment right and was represented, at the scene, by legal counsel. Subsequent attempts to compel the officer to provide a statement were ultimately thwarted when the officer failed to show for a scheduled meeting with BART investigators. Instead, on January 7, his attorney submitted the officer's letter of resignation.
BART detectives viewed the KTVU raw footage on its website. However, the quality of that video was poor. A BART detective asked KTVU for a copy but was denied. Then detectives asked the District Attorney to secure a copy of that video since he has subpoena powers. The District Attorney has now seen that video, but BART Police have not yet received the copy. Prior to the airing of the footage on January 23rd, none of the interviews of people on the platform or on the train produced allegations of unreasonable force by any officer other than Mehserle.
The District Attorney had asked us not to re-interview witnesses or any of the police officers involved. It was only this week that he released us to begin re-interviewing witnesses and the officers involved. BART's role in the criminal investigation is on-going and will include the examination of physical force used to restrain the individuals on the platform. BART Police will turn over that information to the District Attorney and he will decide if an officer's action warrants criminal prosecution. In addition, an internal affairs investigation will determine whether the actions of any officer on the platform violated BART Police policies and procedures. The results of an internal affairs investigation can lead to changes in policies and procedures, retraining or disciplinary action, up to and including termination.
This investigation will be conducted by an independent, third party in order to assure the public that we take this investigation extremely seriously and its outcome will be free from any appearance of bias. By authorizing an independent, outside investigation, we hope to reassure the public that we are unbiased, thorough and accountable.
MOVING THE TRAIN:
Once the shooting occurred at Fruitvale, the platform became a crime scene. In order not to contaminate any evidence at the crime scene, the train, which was crowded with passengers in route to their final destination was released to continue to its run. Officers met the train at Bay Fair and Dublin/Pleasanton to interview witnesses. To date, officers have taken approximately 40 statements from witnesses on the train and from those who called the BART Police tip line.
COMMUNICATING WITH THE PUBLIC:
While BART's communications could've been improved, it is important to note that we could not and cannot discuss the details of an on-going investigation as we could taint the criminal prosecution. The District Attorney directed us to refrain from discussing the on-going investigation with the press and the public. However, within the constraints of an on-going investigation, BART officials have always been available to the news media ever since early New Year's morning.
POLICE RADIO BROADCAST:
Police radio calls for ambulance response announced a shooting victim, however, they did not identify the situation as an officer-involved shooting.