A violent arrest caught on video at the Embarcadero BART station last Friday has led to allegations of racism — not in the actions of police but in that of an older white man who reportedly called them to the scene. According to the Chronicle, a racist encounter between two BART passengers may have sparked one man to falsely call the cops on the other — spuriously reporting that the African-American passenger was armed.
The arrest of 22-year-old Michael Smith was filmed by numerous passengers, and video of an officer punching Smith in the face as he lay handcuffed on the ground prompted allegations of excessive force by BART police. While the videos of Smith only show what happened after police arrived on scene, we now learn via Public Defender Jeff Adachi that the entire ordeal may have been the designs of one straight-up racist passenger.
According to Adachi, Smith was on the way to the doctor with his pregnant girlfriend when a white passenger began saying the woman smelled bad. Smith reportedly took offense, and the man is alleged to then have started hurling racial slurs at the couple. The man then reportedly called police and falsely claimed that Smith was armed — a claim that no doubt contributed to the violent nature of his arrest.
“We are extremely concerned about this case, it appears that the officers assumed Mr. Smith was guilty based on an uncorroborated report,” Adachi told KRON4.
No weapon was found on Smith, and he has pleaded "not guilty" to a charge of misdemeanor resisting arrest and six charges of misdemeanor battery.
Adachi, for his part, thinks the entire situation could have been avoided had police simply asked some questions. "They treated [Smith] like he was some sort of terrorist,” he told the Chron. “The concern here is the police here completely jumped the gun. Rather than investigating the situation, they simply assumed Mr. Smith was guilty and acted accordingly.”
Smith remains in San Francisco County Jail with a bail set at $180,000. No word on what became of the passenger who called the police.