Six vic­tims sue tran­sit agency over brazen at­tacks

The Mercury News Weekend - - LOCAL NEWS - By An­gela Rug­giero arug­giero@ba­yarea news­

OAK­LAND » At least six peo­ple, in­clud­ing a Dublin man and his fam­ily who were beaten dur­ing a mob rob­bery last spring aboard a BART train, are su­ing the tran­sit agency for gross neg­li­gence, they an­nounced Thurs­day.

Rusty Stapp, his wife Pa­tri­cia and daugh­ter Amanda were as­saulted April 22 when 50- 60 teens jumped fare gates at the Coli­seum sta­tion and rushed a Dublin-bound train. The Stapp fam­ily, along with three other BART rid­ers, Ti­mothy Howk, Daniel Men­dez and Mo­ham­mad Ra­sul, are su­ing BART in a joint law­suit.

“It’s the clos­est I’ve ever been to feel­ing like I might die,” Rusty Stapp said Thurs­day.

Po­lice say seven peo­ple were robbed of cell­phones, a duf­fel bag and a purse dur­ing the at­tack.

The in­ci­dent oc­curred as the fam­ily was re­turn­ing from din­ner to cel­e­brate Amanda’s birth­day. Ac­cord­ing to Stapp, the mob pounded on the train as it slowed and rushed in when the doors opened.

In the law­suit filed Thurs­day at Alameda County Su­pe­rior Court, the Stapp fam­ily al­leges that at first the con­duc­tor an­nounced he would not open the train doors un­til the crowd stepped back. De­spite the warn­ing, the doors opened im­me­di­ately af­ter the con­duc­tor’s an­nounce­ment, the law­suit states.

By do­ing so, the train con­duc­tor fa­cil­i­tated the mob’s ac­tions, since there was a clear dan­ger of im­mi­nent threat, and failed to take any mea­sures to pre­vent it from hap­pen­ing, the law­suit claims.

Stapp was beaten, kicked and robbed of his cell­phone. Their daugh­ter was scream­ing un­con­trol­lably as it oc­curred, he said.

Dale Allen, at­tor­ney for BART, told this news­pa­per that po­lice can­not be ev­ery­where and stop every crime.

“BART serves nearly 400,000 pa­trons a day, at 46 sta­tions, on 128 miles of track. BART is ded­i­cated to try­ing to stop every crime but knows it can­not,” Allen said.

He said BART con­tin­ues to try to im­ple­ment new ideas while main­tain­ing staffing, in ef­forts to pre­vent crime.

“It’s an un­for­tu­nate tragedy for the peo­ple in­volved, but BART did what it could with what it had as every other po­lice agency in the state of Cal­i­for­nia tries to do daily,” he said.

The law­suit al­leges that two BART po­lice of­fi­cers were on duty at the Oak­land Coli­seum sta­tion as the group moved through the park­ing lot, but failed to take any pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sures. A BART em­ployee was also men­tioned in the law­suit as hav­ing wit­nessed the fare-gate jump­ing, and ra­dioed it in, but also failed to take pre­cau­tions, the Stapps al­lege.

Other plain­tiffs in­clude Ti­mothy Howk of Pleasan­ton, who was rid­ing BART four days be­fore the Stapps were at­tacked. On April 18, a mob banged on the train be­fore en­ter­ing, and then be­gan rob­bing peo­ple of their cell­phones. Howk ran af­ter a per­son af­ter they stole his cell­phone, but one of the in­di­vid­u­als turned around, de­manded Howk’s wal­let and threat­ened to shoot him, the law­suit states.

Just then, the train doors opened, and Howk pushed the in­di­vid­ual out the doors. Once the doors closed, the per­son be­gan taunt­ing Howk through the glass. Howk re­ported the in­ci­dent and waited for a BART po­lice of­fi­cer.

The of­fi­cer told Howk that a sim­i­lar in­ci­dent had oc­curred the day be­fore as well.

“I was shocked that it hap­pened so fre­quently,” Howk said Thurs­day af­ter­noon out­side the Rene C. David­son court­house steps. “… Pub­lic trans­porta­tion should be safe.”

He and Stapp called for the re­lease of BART surveillance video from their cars and oth­ers dur­ing the at­tacks.

Since Howk’s phone was pro­grammed to send all pho­tos to his iCloud ac­count, he later found a photo on there of a per­son’s lap with four pre­sum­ably stolen cell­phones.

Howk al­leges that BART’s true mo­ti­va­tion was to “pro­tect its pub­lic im­age” and failed to ad­e­quately pro­tect BART pas­sen­gers from such crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity.

Howk said af­ter some time he was able to ride BART again, out of ne­ces­sity for work, but is now al- ways wary of his sur­round­ings.

Men­dez al­leges a sim­i­lar mob-like at­tack hap­pened on March 20 on his way to the air­port. He states he was sur­rounded in the nearly- empty BART train car, and saw an out­line of what ap­peared to be a gun in one per­son’s pocket. When the train ar­rived at the Oak­land Coli­seum, the per­son with the gun pressed up against Men­dez, and told the oth­ers to grab his stuff.

Ra­sul’s en­counter oc­curred the night of April 22, dur­ing the same mob rob­bery as the Stapp fam­ily. His bag, which con­tained a six-gen­er­a­tion fam­ily heir­loom in­side, was taken.

Stapp said that at first BART gave him the ex­pla­na­tion that they would not re­lease cer­tain surveillance videos be­cause it con­tained ju­ve­niles.


Tim Howk, left, Rusty Stapp and at­tor­ney Paul Justi ad­dress me­dia Thurs­day re­gard­ing a law­suit they filed against BART over mob at­tacks on trains.

A photo of the al­leged rob­ber in a brazen BART at­tack against Tim Howk of Pleasan­ton in April. The per­pe­tra­tor took this photo us­ing Howk’s stolen phone, and the photo was up­loaded into Howk’s iCloud ac­count.

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