An East Bay woman has filed a civil rights lawsuit over a December 31, 2019 incident in which she was forcibly detained and bloodied by BART police officers over fare evasion at San Leandro's Bayfair Station.
24-year-old SaTae'zja Devereaux admits that she skipped paying her BART fare on that day twenty months ago. But she and her attorney, Adante Pointer, say that a $3.60 infraction should not have led to such a brutal incident — and they have now released BART Police body camera footage showing how it went down, which they gave to KTVU.
In the video, we see three officers — Brian Lucas, now a sergeant, Karl Carpio, and Casey Tyler — approach Devereaux as she tries to exit the station. She pretends to look for her BART ticket but says she can't find it, and one of the officers says that they saw her slide through a turnstile behind someone else.
Devereaux offers to pay the fare, but one officer says, "That's not the way this works," and asks her to give her ID to one of the other officers, telling her she is being detained and is not free to leave.
"Either give the officer your ID, or you will be placed in handcuffs and we will decide whether or not you are going to jail," the officer says.
Devereaux continues to ask, "Why can't I just pay for it?" and refuses to show her ID, after which the officers move to physically detain her. As soon as one officer grabs her arm, Devereaux becomes immediately agitated and begins screaming and saying "Don't touch me!" At this point, the video goes blank or the camera was somehow obstructed, and all we have is audio of Devereaux screaming and onlookers beginning to gather and take video of the incident themselves. Devereaux also screams "Get him off me!" and "I can't breathe."
The video then shows Devereaux on the ground with blood near her face. The lawsuit claims that Lucas struck her twice in the face.
As Pointer tells KRON4, "Given the way in which the officers including the sergeant was so comfortable using this brutish, display of force in public broad daylight, it appears to be that BART still has not gotten the message."
Pointer adds, "This is a $3.60 fare evasion. There’s no way for that small amount of money for what is a minor infraction that a person should wind up getting punched multiple times, thrown to the ground, pressed against the ground in such a way that is hard for you to to breathe and you start thinking about is this where I’m going to die."
Pointer has previously represented the parents of Mario Woods and Alex Nieto, two men who were fatally shot by San Francisco police in the last decade, and he has filed numerous civil rights suits against law enforcement. He worked in the offices of renowned civil rights attorney John Burris where he also represented the family of Oscar Grant, the man killed by BART police in a notorious New Year's incident in 2009.
Devereaux was jailed by BART police and charged with resisting arrest and fare evasion, though those charges were ultimately dropped.
She tells KTVU that she would have ultimately shown the officers her ID, but she wanted to know whether that would prevent them from taking her to jail. "I did not want to go to jail," she says. "I know that sounds super backwards. But in my mind, if I give them my information, I was going to jail anyway."
The BART Police Officers' Association has issued a statement in response to the lawsuit saying, "The allegations in a lawsuit are just that and selective images do not accurately convey the totality of the encounter. We are confident the officers will prevail after all the evidence is considered through the judicial process."
BART spokesperson Alicia Trost issued a statement saying, "While BART cannot comment on pending or anticipated litigation or personnel matters, BART and its police department take all use of force incidents seriously. Nothing is more critical than building trust with riders and the communities we serve through equitable policing practices. BART’s general manager, chief of police, and independent police auditor are working hard to advance progressive policing reforms to ensure our policies, training, and de-escalation tactics exceed industry standards."
Devereaux's suit is seeking punitive damages as well as payment of her attorney fees and the cost of psychological counseling that she received.