San Francisco transit officer accidentally shot, killed

SAN FRANCISCO — A public transit officer in the San Francisco Bay Area accidentally shot and killed another transit officer while they were conducting a search on the apartment of a robbery suspect who was in custody, authorities said.

Details of how Tuesday afternoon’s shooting by a Bay Area Rapid Transit officer unfolded in the East Bay city of Dublin were unclear, and sheriff’s officials were searching for answers.

“That’s going to be part of the investigation, to find out if this was some sort of an accidental discharge or whether it was a case of target misidentification,” Alameda County Sheriff’s Sgt. J.D. Nelson told KTVU-TV. “Either way it was an accident, and we’re going to try to figure out exactly what happened and the circumstances that led up to it.”

The slain officer was identified as BART Sgt. Tom Smith, 42, of San Ramon. Smith, a detective who’s been with the department for 20 years, is survived by his wife and 6-year-old daughter, Gov. Jerry Brown said in a statement.

“Sergeant Smith’s family, friends and colleagues are in our thoughts as we honor his service during this painful time,” the statement said.

The officers — members of BART’s detective unit — were searching the apartment as part of an investigation into a man suspected of committing robberies on BART property, authorities said.

Nelson said the officer who shot Smith has been in law enforcement for more than 10 years.

“You also have to understand how devastated he is at this point,” he told KTVU. “This was certainly not his intent, and you can only imagine the heartbreak that that officer has.”

The officers knew the suspect, whose name has not been released, was in custody and not home at the time, Nelson said.

They wore bulletproof vests and began their search by knocking twice on the door, Nelson told the Contra Costa Times (http://bit.ly/LFOJSi). Each knock went unanswered, but the door was unlocked, so several of them stepped inside with their guns drawn, Nelson said.

He said the officers thought someone was inside because the door was unlocked.

Details about what happened next haven’t been released, but Nelson told the newspaper that an officer fired one shot.

Smith was taken to Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, where he died from his injuries — the first on-duty fatality in BART police’s 42-year history, authorities said.

Television reports showed lines of officers outside the hospital saluting as their fallen comrade’s body, draped in a large American flag, was loaded into a coroner’s van.

BART Police Chief Kenton Rainey didn’t answer any questions from reporters at a brief news conference Tuesday evening.

“We ask that everyone please give us a chance to catch our breath” and to grieve, he said.

“The entire BART organization is deeply saddened by this tragic event, and we ask the public to keep the officer’s family in its thoughts and prayers,” Rainey and BART General Manager Grace Crunican said earlier in a joint statement.

They said they were withholding other details for now. The name of the officer who fired hasn’t been released.

The police agency has been the center of other controversies.

Among them was the fatal shooting on New Year’s Day 2009 of Oscar Grant III, an unarmed black BART passenger who had been detained at the Fruitvale station after reports of a fight.

Officer Johannes Mehserle, who is white, drew his gun and shot Grant in the back as he lay face down on the platform. The event was recorded by many video and cellphone cameras and was followed by a series of large protests.

Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to two years minus time served.

An independent auditor said last month that BART police have made significant progress in meeting reforms instituted after Grant’s death, including increased officer training about bias and other issues, along with better reporting about incidents involving use of force.

More in Local News

Former Monroe cop loses appeal on sex crimes conviction

Once a highly respected officer, he was found guilty of secretly videotaping his kids’ babysitter.

Derrick “Wiz” Crawford, 22, is a suspect in the homicide of his roommate. (Edmonds Police Department)
Roommate suspected in Edmonds killing found hiding in closet

Police had been searching for him for 10 days before locating him at a house in Everett.

New leaders coming to county, state political parties

Hillary Moralez of Bothell takes over as chair for the Snohomish County Democratic Party.

Young woman missing from Mukilteo found safe

She called her parents and told them she was at a museum in Seattle.

Camano Island man gets 18 years for role in drug ring

He was convicted of helping lead a drug distribution network in four Washington counties.

Lake Stevens man missing since beginning of January

Jason Michael Knox White hasn’t used his credit card or withdrawn money from his bank since then.

Navy to put filter in Coupeville’s contaminated water system

Chemicals from firefighting foam was found in the town’s drinking water.

Mom and brother turn in suspect in Stanwood robberies

The man is suspected of robbing the same gas station twice, and apologizing to the clerk afterward.

Nichols Brothers Boat Builders apprentice Janette Alhanati (left) and journeyman Kurt Warwick construct wall panels for an upcoming boat project with Linblad Expedition Holdings. A federal grant from the Northwest Workforce Council will allow Nichols Brothers to add more apprentices to its workforce starting in January 2018.
Whidbey Island boatbuilder gets hiring boost

The grant from the Northwest Workforce Council will help expand the company’s apprenticeship program.

Most Read