SF public defender calls on DA to drop charges in BART excessive force case

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SAN FRANCISCO (KRON)—San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi has asked prosecutors on Wednesday to drop the remaining charges against a man who was violently arrested at the Embarcadero BART station in July.

Michael Smith, 22, was acquitted on four counts of battery on an officer last week, but the jury hung on two other counts of battery on a police officer, one count of resisting an officer and a lesser charge for battery. Prosecutors could still decide to retry the case.

Adachi is handling the case personally and says the case should spur a police reform. He has pointed the case as an example of racial bias in policing with officers overreacting to a fake report of a black man with a gun.

Smith was on BART with his girlfriend when they got into an racially tinged argument with a white man, Adachi said. The couple was trying to get away from the man who accused the woman of smelling bad when they got off the train at the Embarcadero Station. They met by officers with weapons in hand as soon as they got off the train. The man then called 911 accusing Smith of trying to rob him and having a gun.

Bystander video shows officers struggling with Smith and punching him in the head while he is pinned on his stomach. Smith was trying to protect his girlfriend during the confrontation, Adachi said. The woman was pinned on her stomach with an officer’s knee in her back.

Smith and his girlfriend both claim they were handcuffed. His girlfriend was pregnant at the time and ended up losing the baby a week or two after the incident.

Adachi and BART both released video of the incident which was caught on surveillance camera, officer body cameras and bystanders’ cameras.

The San Francisco public defender argued in court that BART police did not follow its own policy in handling situations involving a pregnant woman.

BART claims it is not part of its policy to handcuff pregnant women.

“When deciding whether to use any restraint, officers should carefully balance officer safety concerns with factors that include whether the person is known to be pregnant,” BART said in a statement. “Persons who are known to be pregnant should be restrained in the least restrictive manner that is effective to officer safety, and in no event shall these persons be restrained by the use of leg irons, waist chains, or handcuffs behind body.”

BART claims the woman was not visibly pregnant and the body cameras video proves that she was treated with respect.

Smith was not cooperative with police, but his girlfriend was, according to BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost.

“Body cameras on the officers show the adult male bit, kicked, and spat on officers while resisting arrest,” Trost said.

The investigation into the case is still ongoing, but BART plans to finish its investigation within the next 6 months.

Here is the CHP Audio:

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