Murder, A Silly Drawing, And Why Bart Officers Shouldn’t Live In Glass Houses

The head is shaped like a football, the nose looks like a little bell, and the lips are off to one side. Oh, it gets worse. The eyes are mismatched, the hair looks like a worn-out straw broom, and there’s no sign of an ear anywhere. Yet, this childlike composite drawing based on a witnesses description led Bolivian police to the killer of a local taxi driver. The suspect is now in police custody. I’m guessing the earless murderer didn’t hear the officials sneaking up on him.



A Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officer in Oakland, Ca. found himself faced with having to remove a drunken man, 37-year-old Michael Gibson, from one of the BART trains. Gibson had been extremely disruptive while on the train, yelling and making threatening gestures toward other passengers. One passenger actually confronted Gibson and asked him to leave. That’s when the BART officer grabbed the offender and forcibly walked him toward a wall of windows. Once at the wall the officer immediately slammed the man into the window, breaking it. The shattered glass cut both men.

There are going to be two different opinions about this incident. Almost every police officer who’s had to arrest an unruly suspect will know and understand why the BART officer did what he did. The general public will probably watch the video below and come away thinking the officer used excessive force.

Readers of this blog know that I’m not a fan of excessive force, and I’m not timid when it comes to pointing fingers when I think an officer is quick on the Taser draw. However, this incident is not a case of a purposeful use of excessive force. I think the officer actually had safety on his mind, but his idea simply didn’t work.

The video clearly shows the officer firmly controlling the suspect while making a beeline for the wall of windows. Any officer knows that to gain quick control of a subject for handcuffing it’s best to pin them against a solid surface,  limiting their movements and ability to fight. Many times that surface of choice is a wall. I’m almost certain the officer thought the window would serve that purpose, especially when storefront plate glass windows been used for this purpose many times. A window is not a first choice, but in the heat of the moment you use what you have available at that time – a car hood, a fence, trees, the ground…a window.


This is one case where I really hope the review board uses common sense and doesn’t give in to public outcry. However, this is the same BART department where one of their officers pulled his weapon and shot a defenseless man in the back, killing him, claiming he thought he’d pulled his Taser, not his pistol. Public outcry just may prevail this time.


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4 replies
  1. Les Edgerton
    Les Edgerton says:

    Good post, Lee! Did the artist’s kid do the drawing? That’s hysterical.

    And, the bit about excessive force was right on. As you know, I had a bit of a criminal background and was arrested a number of times. Several times, I received the “Rodney King” treatment (no cameras around, alas, or I could have “lawyered up” I suppose…). But, I never thought once about blaming the officer. Us oldtimers had a saying, “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.” That also holds true for how you’re treated. If you’ve committed a crime, we always kind of figured we got what we deserved and didn’t whine about it. It’s a whole new generation today, however. I watch the TV shows these days where they catch the criminal and it’s pretty clear he did the crime… and he starts crying! What kind of outlaw is that? If we ran across guys that cried because they got caught we… well, they probably wouldn’t have a long shelf life… We had a term for guys like that. It begins with a “P” and ends with a “y.”

  2. D. Swords
    D. Swords says:

    I agree, Lee.

    Having had to take many unruly persons into custody, you understand the point at which you know you’re going to have trouble. That instant when you lay hands on someone (initial point of an arrest) and you can feel their muscles tense and begin to push against you or try to pull away. That is the point at which you begin to use physical force, because you realize the struggle is on, yet to an observer, it may appear as though you were the aggressor.

    In other words, things are not always as they appear, yet people will increasingly want to judge officers by the video, thinking of the old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

    There is often more to the story, but the media loves vidoes for sound bites and quick stories, leaving the public the option to pre-judge.

  3. sz
    sz says:

    Lee, It is the eyebrows that did it !

    The video, if you watch a few times, looks to me like he hit the window with his arm.

    {not sure if this comes through twice, sorry. puter probs}

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