A clearly unstable man who had already caught the attention of BART police early Friday morning at North Concord/Martinez BART Station was allowed by one BART officer to board a train full of commuters after allegedly already yelling about wanting to stab everyone on the platform. This is according to BART rider Mike Hohndorf, and apparently dozens of other passengers who witnessed the man making threats, and the Chronicle delves into whether the man's actions should have constituted criminal threats and how slow to react BART police ended up being on the San Francisco-bound train.
According to Hohndorf, this all began unfolding in the wee hours of Friday morning when North Concord/Martinez Station hadn't even yet opened. Hohndorf typically arrives early, at 3:30 a.m., and because he walks with a cane he needs extra time getting up to the train platform and that morning, in fact, he missed the first train because of it. He says he saw the man in question flailing his arms and getting the attention of BART cops in the parking lot, and then witnessed the man say "I'm going to kill all of you" to the crowd gathered outside the station gates before they opened.
He also apparently said "I'm going to stab all of you," and Hohndorf then spoke to a BART Police officer in the station while he waited for the second train to arrive. The officer allegedly promised to handle the situation, but Hohndorf says the belligerent man was allowed to board a train anyway.
“I look to the left, and I’m watching the guy get on the train with the cop standing there,” he tells the Chronicle.
The man then rode the train seven stops, repeatedly threatening passengers and allegedly telling Hohndorf, "I'm going to stab you" while reaching his hand into a black plastic bag he was carrying.
Multiple passengers alerted the train operator of the threatening man via the intercom, including Hohndorf, and he was told that BART police were mobilizing to apprehend the man at 12th Street Station in Oakland but the man got off the train two stops before that, at MacArthur.
The man was acting erratically and making threats in the presence of BART officers at North Concord, but for some reason it took him making more threats for BART police to decide to act after he was already in an enclosed train with dozens of passengers.
In a statement to the Chronicle, BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost says, "We understand that when you’re in a public space and you’re riding BART, sometimes you’re on a train with someone that makes you feel uncomfortable. That doesn’t mean necessarily that we can prevent that person from boarding."
Trost also claims that the officer on the platform at North Concord who allowed the man to board the train only knew that the man was yelling, and allegedly didn't know of the threats of violence. And BART's deputy police chief Lance Haight says that the officer who spoke to the man in the parking lot that morning determined he was not a threat to others.
Trost further said, "There’s a lot going on in our system, and we all have to look out for each other. Safety is clearly the top priority."