By Henry Lee
San Francisco Chronicle
SAN BRUNO, Calif. — BART is investigating whether one of its police officers acted properly when he shocked an intoxicated passenger with a Taser at the San Bruno Station, an encounter captured on video and posted online, officials said Thursday.
Some witnesses said the man, parolee Robert Asberry, had done nothing to warrant being shocked. But BART Police Chief Kenton Rainey said the officer had exercised restraint and faced a potential threat.
Passenger Vidya Kaipa wrote in an online post that the incident two weeks ago was "awful and heartbreaking and outrageous."
But she noted, "I'm hesitant to jump to the 'police brutality' conclusion, because the aggression wasn't totally unprovoked. Yes, the cop definitely shouldn't have used the Taser, but at the same time, Robert shouldn't have resisted the cop for so long. That being said, Robert should have never been stopped in the first place."
The incident happened about 10 p.m. Jan. 29. BART police were called to investigate reports of a man who was "drunk and harassing patrons," according to a police log. Kaipa wrote that although Asberry had "lightly touched" her hair, she wasn't bothered by his advances.
An officer boarded and repeatedly asked Asberry to exit the train, but he refused. "Upon detention, the suspect became resistive and a Taser had to be used to take him into custody," the log entry reads. The video shows Asberry being shocked twice.
A check revealed that Asberry had a no-bail warrant for a parole violation, authorities said. He was medically cleared at a hospital before being booked at San Mateo County Jail on the warrant and on suspicion of resisting arrest and public intoxication.
BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said Thursday, "Per policy and protocol, BART police has initiated the proper investigation into this incident. The link to the video on the Internet was also forwarded to BART's independent police auditor."
Agency policy states that officers can use a Taser only when a suspect "poses an immediate threat to the officer or a member of the public."
Rainey said, "I can certainly sympathize and empathize with what the public is saying. We are called to contact people at their worst, and a lot of times it is not pretty. Our first resort is to get voluntary compliance and, as you can see, that officer was extremely patient. The idea the officer has to wait to be struck or kicked or something else done to him before (taking) defensive action is just wrong."
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