East Bay News
BART cops defend release of driver that hit protester
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OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- BART police are responding to criticism about how they handled an accident involving a car and protesters. What BART calls 'standard procedure' seemed like favoritism to the protesters.
Cellphone video from Wednesday night shows marchers passing down Broadway at 11th Street and a Mercedes Benz trying to cross through them. It shows a protester jumping in front of the car, banging on the hood and then the driver hitting his gas, knocking down the one protester in front and another in back. Both were taken to the hospital.
BART police responded. Witnesses did not hesitate to share what they saw.
"All he had to do was wait a few minutes and even if he was upset by someone slapping his car, you don't attempt to murder somebody because someone slapped your car, that's outrageous," Nelson Rodriguez said.
"I'm sure they will test him to see if he was using any banned substances as they call it, and it's in the hands of the experts now," Sunny Bostrom said.
But BART says its officers had no breathalyzer, nor cause to use one.
"They observed the driver, they contacted him, got his identification, wrote that all down; they didn't see he was intoxicated in any way," BART police spokesperson Lt. Frank Lucarelli said.
On an emotional night, the crowd wanted an arrest. Instead, BART officers released the driver, knowing full-well that the crowd would react angrily.
As BART police tried to depart, the crowd surrounded their car for a few tense moments.
The incident remains a hot topic. While neither BART police nor the Oakland Police Department have released the driver's identity, protesters have posted pictures of him on the Internet.
Thursday, BART defended the way it handed Wednesday night's tense situation. As it looked based on their reputation, they insist it was by the book.
"Race has nothing to do with it, it was a concern for officer," Lucarelli said. "They contacted OPD, it was in their jurisdiction. Our officer got the information, released everybody, based on the fact that it was the right thing to do."
There had been an earlier report that Occupy Oakland was demanding the immediate arrest of the driver. The group now denies that.
The Alameda County District Attorney's Office has not indicated if it will file charges.
oakland, protest, occupy wall street, OPD, BART, pedestrian struck, east bay news, wayne freedman
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