353-Day Probe Exonerates BART Cop Who Shot Transient 25 Seconds After Showing up at Platform


shot by cop

James Crowell, an officer with BART that apparently now works for the FBI, was cleared in the shooting of a homeless man, Charles Hill, at the Civic Center platform in San Francisco last year.  The transient was holding a knife which he threw at Crowell. The shooting came two years after Oscar Grant was shot and killed by a BART officer who accidentally pulled for his gun when he meant to use his Taser. Crowell was not armed with a Taser, though all BART officers will be getting them soon, among the "127 policy changes recommended by an independent auditor," the Bay City News reports, adding that 27 were completed at the time of the Hill shooting

The fate of those reforms? From the Bay City News:

"They are changing," said Lynette Sweet, a BART board member who has been critical of the department in the past.

Sweet described a recent incident in which BART officers disarmed another knife-wielding individual without the use of weapons…
But other reform efforts have come under criticism. Joel Keller, a member of BART's board of directors, fumed at a recent meeting about the lack of reports from the Citizen Review Board. After the Grant shooting, BART established the police oversight board and hired an independent police auditor.

"It's mind-boggling to me that we went through this lengthy process. We set up very simple to follow directions with the assistance of the community that came out of a tragedy," Keller said at a recent meeting. "It's now a year and a half later, and we have not seen one thing in writing about what they're doing whether they're handling complaints or whether they're doing investigations."

The independent police auditor – and by extension the Citizen Review Board – has opened two investigations and is handling two appeals related to complaints about officer misconduct.

But no one filed a formal complaint about the Hill shooting, according to Smith, the independent police auditor. That means his office won't have the formal authority to recommend discipline…

[Despite public protests, a]ccording to the review board's rules, a complaint must be filed by a victim, witness, or a parent or guardian of the victim.

"We are a complaint-driven office with regard to officer-involved shootings," Smith said.

Radley Balko, now with the Huffington Post, defended the involuntary manslaughter conviction received by the cop who shot and killed Grant.

Surveillance video of the Charles Hill shooting:

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  1. A guy who walks into a train station and throws a knife at a cop who appeared to be minding his own business lacks the same sympathy as handcuffed pregnant prostitute.

    1. It's not about empathy.

      If I were armed and someone threw a knife at me, you think I'd sit around and wait to see what else he had to throw?

      I don't need a big-eyed bunny of a victim to stand up for my own right not to be arbitrarily shot by the police...but I don't see anything arbitrary about this case...

      Now, I don't know anything more about this case than what I've read here, but I know that if I don't want to get shot by a cop, that can often be easily avoided by not throwing knives at them.

      1. w3rd.

  2. The transient was holding a knife which he threw at Crowell.

    Rendering the bum unarmed when killed. Making this rather puzzling:

    Sweet described a recent incident in which BART officers disarmed another knife-wielding individual without the use of weapons?

    Sounds to me like the bum at issue was, in fact, disarmed without anyone using his weapon. Is this who they are referring to?

    Or, is there yet a third knife-wielder who was also disarmed without anyone using a weapon?

    Or, do they regard shooting someone who no longer has a knife as disarming them with the use of a weapon?

    1. The bum was charged with "Using his body to impede the progress of a LEO bullet" post-mortem.

    2. Looking at the video it seems plausible that the officer made his decision use lethal force before he realized the knife was being thrown, and the suspect was unarmed. The knife is still moving as he fires his weapon, that really isn't enough time to react to the change in scenario. Based on the video alone to go on, I can't find fault with the officer.

      1. Video blocked at work. Yeah, if that's the way it played out, probably a good shoot.

        1. You should watch it when you can, the officer appears to act professionally, but the suspect is off camera the entire time, so only part of the story is being told.

      2. jesus, not this shit again

        there is NO reason to assume that once the transient threw the knife, he was "unarmed". this is the kind of frankly moronic shit you see from people who have never dealt with criminals, street people, or street reality.
        people, ESPECIALLY those prone to violence (like throwing a knife at a cop) VERY frequently have multiple weapons.

        VERY frequently.

        n= metric assloads.

        i have recovered multiple knives, multiple guns, knife/gun combos, etc. etc. off all sorts of people, even "transients"

        as somebody who teaches firearms training, i can tell you we would NEVER teach that once a person is disarmed of *a* weapon, that one assumes they are unarmed. that's colossally stupid officer safety and an assumption made w/o evidence

        when somebody evidences homicidal intent, takes such action (throwing a knife), you ASSUME they are still armed until you know otherwise.

        they created the exigency and the situation, and the burden is on them not you to make an assumption

        fuck this guy. he was justifiably shot

    3. rubbish. criminals FREQUENTLY carry multiple weapons

      the only way the officer would KNOW he was unarmed would be to pat frisk him

      we had a cop shot and killed in WA a few years back after the guy was disarmed of ONE gun and used his secondary to shoot and kill the cop

      i recover multiple weapons from people frequently. i have recovered more than one gun from a person at least 1/2 dozen times (on their person), and recovered knife/gun/etc. combos scores of times.

      it is part of training that you NEVER assume the weapon you see is the only weapon the person has

      this person evidenced the intent to commit serious bodily injury/death on the officer and made the overt act (throwing the knife) and he got shot justifiably

      fuck him. don't throw knives at cops

      like i said, i had a guy throw the business end of a shovel at me the other day, and we didn't shoot him, but as i said at the time, i would have been justified in doing so (cops use lethal force less often than they are justified in doing so)

      again, fuck this guy. he got JUSTIFIABLE force used agaist him

      but the idea that you know he was UNARMED is ridiculous and typical of armchair pundits with zero street experience.

  3. Lesson learned: Don't throw knives at cops unless you want them to kill you.

    1. Death by gunshot might be preferable to death by savage beating that a transient is likely to get for having had a single beer and not being sufficiently deferential to the moustache-clad ego trippers.

    2. I thought the lesson was already "don't hold knives around where cops might be" as learned from the Seattle indian that got shot for whittling (whiddling? widdling?)

      1. and THAT was an unjustified shootign, to compare and contrast

  4. For once, this doesn't seem particularly outrageous.

    1. Agreed.

    2. A man wielding a knife can close and slash you before you have time to shoot him from a distance of 10ft.

      This really looks life self-defense to me.

      1. 21 feet is the accepted minimum distance to draw and fire 2 rounds COM when facing an attacker armed with a knife. There's a crazy video from the 80s of this martial arts guy wrecking police officers with a rubber knife in various scenarios. He kills them almost every single time.

  5. James Crowell, an officer with BART that apparently now works for the FBI

    I wonder if he put "Killed some homeless piece of trash" on his resume...

    1. Project much?

      1. Ever heard of sarcasm?

  6. Is that bright yellow thing on the shooting officer's right side not a taser? It sure looks like one from the video...

    1. It looks like a taser to me, as well. Maybe Dunphy, or any other posters with firsthand experience will chime in and confirm. It might be a flashlight? Regardless, even if he had a taser, I still couldn't fault the officer for reaching for his sidearm. It's much more instinctual to go for it, especially if he thought his life was in danger.

      1. Obviously way more instinctual to pull the gun. I mean, how many people are dead from officers' TRYING to pull the Taser and getting the gun?

        1. If you're referring to the shooting the guy in the back while he was handcuffed incident, that cop was a complete retard that deserved far worse than what he got. Reacting to a sudden and unforeseen attack is quite different.

          1. i agree with balko that the cop in the shoot in the back incident got EXACTLY what the law required - involuntary manslaughter.

            in this case, the officer probably did have a taser. as a firearms/uof instructor myself, i would suggest that the preferred force option in this incident was gun, not taser.

            iow, he made the correct choice , morally, legally, and commonsense wise

    2. That's an interesting point.

      People who are shot don't go down immediately, and in the knifeman charging towards victim scenario, the knifeman's momentum can carry him to the victim and he can get a good slash in before the bloodloss can take its toll.

      On the other hand, a tazer pretty much instantaneously incapacitates.

      So which is the weapon that's a more surefire defense? I don't know.

      1. I'd never trust my life to a taser.

        1. There were two cops there and the cop only fired when the man threw the knife making him unarmed. If one cop went for the taser, and then missed or it failed, the other cop could have simply killed him. I am not faulting him for shooting the guy (I would have shot him, as a civilian), but I think as a police officer he should have attempted to resolve it without death. If I were a cop and in a 2 on 1 situation against a homeless man with a knife, I would reach for the taser first as long as my partner had my back with the 9 mil.

          1. I'd never trust my life to another cop, either. I would also agree that police should be held to a higher standard than a non-LEO officer with a concealed weapon for example, but we are all human. Although, I didn't see where the second cop was, must have been off camera? The video really doesn't tell the whole story, up until you mentioned that I had just assumed it was one officer dealing with the threat.

            1. You can see 2 cops exit the train.

            2. You can see 2 cops exit the train.

          2. and there have been numerous cases where when there are two cops in such a situation, ONE goes less lethal where the other offers lethal backup

            an SPD cop got slashed across the chest (but not hurt because of his vest) while deploying a taser on a knife weilder not too long ago.

            regardless, from a const. law/procedure/UOF/commonsense perspective, this was a dynamic incident. it is differentiated form where they were responding to "man with a knife" and had time to formulate a lethal/less lethal plan with two officers, etc.

            iow, it was a situation where an officer was forced to react quickly and we don't expect or require perfection, merely "reasonableness" vis a vis force.

            it was CLEARLY justified and reasonable, but nobody is claiming it was the BEST possible solution.

            given TIME to prepare in other types of incidents, we would likely see such a result (or an officer with a beanbag gun, etc.)

            this case is distinguishable due to the sudden, dynamic nature

            and it's TEXTBOOK justified

      2. Tazers are from torturing already restrained "perps" and "skells" or diabetics in a coma that aren't following orders.

        1. Also, very true. Or getting pissy motorists to sign tickets.

  7. I don't know what to think about this story.

    But, I'd like to point out the behavior of people who witnessed/at least heard the shots fired. Notice, besides the woman with the stroller who accelerated her pace, no one else panicked or engaged in any other histrionics during the shooting.

    Interesting, considering how these situations are usually portrayed in fiction.

    1. Or, is that just SF for yah?

  8. this shooting was so OBVIOUSLY justified it's ridiculous

    clearly within constitutional restrictions (tenn v. garner etc.) as well as (i assume) BART policies and procedures. it certainly would have been justified under my agency's UOF continuum

    pro-tip: don't throw a knife at a cop

    (or the detached metal end of a shovel as i mentioned happened to me. we did NOT shoot the guy and thank god for tasers and if anybody had shot him, including a "civilian" it would have been EASILY justified after a violent, multiple death threat making schizophrenic off his meds threatened us and neighbors with death and then used deadly force. again, a story that will never make reason because we did NOT shoot him, as is far more common. i was happy to see (we did not charge him because he's fucking insane) that he was committed at his 72 hr mental health hearing and should spend some extended time at the mental hospital).

    1. Yeah, OK, you win this one. That makes you, what, 1 for 25 in defending cops in Reason articles?

      1. no it makes me 100%

        because i frequently DO NOT defend cops. i frequently condemn them and say they should be prosecuted.

        WHEN the evidence supports it.

        it doesn't support it in this case.

        i am as fierce a critic of misconduct as anybody

        but this isn't misconduct. this is textbook reasonable force.

        it's not even remotely arguable.

  9. Government employment should carry a diminished right of self defense. The life of any citizen is worth more than the life of any government employee.

    1. lol


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