Six victims sue transit agency over brazen attacks
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.