More details are emerging in the petty theft case that is gripping the Bay Area mostly because it involved a gang of deplorable teens, random assaults, and a public transit system everyone loves to hate. As we learned this week, the April 22 swarm robbery by an unknown number of juveniles at Oakland's Coliseum Station has already lead to a civil lawsuit, or the beginnings of one, with one Dublin family of three suing BART for $3 million for negligence and damages. Now, as the Chronicle reports, we're learning a bit more about the timeline of events that Saturday night, in which a group of 30 to 60 teenagers stormed the station, jumped the fare gates, and ran up to the platform.
It turns out they did not time their arrival to coincide with the arriving Dublin/Pleasanton train, but in fact got there a minute or two before that train arrived in the station. We heard earlier that a call went out to BART police who were reportedly patrolling the station parking lot at the time and it apparently took them more than four minutes to return to the station, by which time the gang of teens had left.
Now we learn, per the Chronicle and confirmed by BART, that there was an arriving San Francisco-bound train in the station first, and some teens boarded that train and caused some disturbance but then got off the train without committing any crimes.
A question raised by the attorney for that Dublin family is why the operator of the Dublin/Pleasanton train didn't override the train doors when he saw the mob of teens on the platform who subsequently were banging on doors and windows before the train had even come to a stop. Just days later it took only four teens jumping fare gates at Lake Merritt station to cause a train to completely bypass the station without opening its doors, out of caution.
As victim Rusty Stapp explained in the wake of his lawsuit, "We could hear the conductor over the intercom telling the crowd to stand back or the doors would not open. Then two seconds later, the doors opened.”
BART spokesperson Alicia Trost now tells the Chronicle that the train operator "hadn’t been advised of the fare evasion, since it had just occurred moments before," and that operators are trained to look at the tracks as they approach the station to avoid hitting anything or anyone that may be in them, and this operator perhaps did not have a chance to see any commotion happening on the platform.
There may have been some breakdown in communication, though, between the station agent and dispatch, because Trost says, "The operator hadn’t received word not to allow [the doors to open], since the police had just been called moments before." and she says that "the intercom notices [from passengers] started to happen [after the doors had opened] and the operator immediately called it in."
The information about the group running onto the SF-bound train first, which was caught on surveillance video, further calls to question why the station agent didn't act faster in this case.
Needless to say, the details of the incident are going to continue trickling out, and we should be seeing another lawsuit or two fairly soon.