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Video of BART Officer Using Taser on Man Raises Questions About Use of Force

This video was captured last month, but has recently resurfaced and officials addressed it this week. Please note, there is some profanity audible in the video.

This screenshot of the YouTube video in question shows officers surrounding a man after he was tasered.
This screenshot of the YouTube video in question shows officers surrounding a man after he was tasered.
**Editor's note: There is some profanity audible in the video.

By Bay City News Service:


 A Youtube video surfaced Thursday of a BART police officer shocking an apparently drunken rider with a Taser and the footage has prompted a police investigation into whether the action was appropriate.

 At the BART board of directors meeting Thursday morning, BART police Chief Kenton Rainey addressed the video and incident, which occurred on Jan. 29 on a Millbrae-bound train.

 According to BART police, an officer responded to a report around 10 p.m. that night of a man who was drunk and harassing passengers. Police said the man, identified as Robert Asberry, allegedly became resistant on the train and a Taser had to be used to take him into custody, adding that he had an outstanding no-bail arrest warrant for a parole violation.

 After he was stunned, Asberry was taken to Mills-Peninsula Hospital in Burlingame and was then booked for the warrant, resisting arrest, and for public intoxication, according to police.

 The train was held for 18 minutes during the incident. Rainey said to reporters Thursday that the officers decided to use force on Asberry after he would not follow police orders.

 "We always try to get individuals to voluntarily comply first. The officer had to use force to conclude the situation," Rainey said.

 The video resurfaced Thursday after it was posted on a blog last month. In that post, a woman who was on the train with Asberry wrote about how she found the police action heavy-handed and unnecessary. She wrote in the original post that she did not feel threatened by the suspect after he sat next to her.

 "I was never concerned about my safety," she wrote. "If I really felt worried, I would have moved, or I could have indicated my discomfort by at the very least moving my backpack and phone away from him."

 In the post, she said she did not contact police. Rainey said police were informed about Asberry before he got on train and that there is more to the situation than what is shown in the Youtube video.

 "Just because the witnesses we see in the video said nothing was going on, doesn't mean the officer needs to disregard what is going on," Rainey said. "More important, and I don't want people to lose sight, often times people engaged in this behavior, a lot of times there is a lot more to just what we see when the officer shows up."    

 He said reports had come in about Asberry on a train platform. According to Rainey, the officer involved is still on duty. Any decisions about taking him off duty or ordering a retraining on Taser use would come about after an investigation into the incident concludes.

 The video of the incident can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1h-_tMgZhg.
Courtney Carreras February 17, 2014 at 04:48 PM
Bruce, I hear what you are saying. I agree that if the guy started throwing punches, a taser would have been the right response. The point is, he wasn't. He was laying on the ground. Either way, I agree its something that happens in the heat of the moment. I thought, from what I saw, there were other options. I'm not saying a big investigation is necessary or action against the officer. I was simply throwing in my 2 cents after watching the video - which I thought was the purpose of this venue. I'm making the point that its OK to ask the question.
bruce k February 17, 2014 at 05:38 PM
Courtney, I hear you too; and I do agree with some of your points. I'm of the opinion that a TASER, while it can have unpredictable consequences, like death, has them much less often than the alternatives, and usually to the person who is causing the problem. I have no problem with asking questions and discussing things, but there is a lot of context and background in simply the situation that seems often to just get overlooked while we feel sorry for someone who gets hurt like this man. This situation was not Oscar Grant. Often the thing to recall is to understand that these situations are often at the end of a long and unpredictable series of mistakes of miscommunications on the part of people, and wrongful expectations. For instance someone mentioned that the man was drunk. I don't think that was the sole issue, because on celebrations days they urge people who have been drinking to take public transit ... but if you are under the influence you need to behave, maybe with even more caution. We all need to be aware of what is acceptable behavior when in public places where a certain order is needed for everyone's safety. People need to know not to play games or joke around or sometimes learn the hard way.
Courtney Carreras February 17, 2014 at 07:23 PM
Thanks Bruce - agreed.
elliottmd0815 February 17, 2014 at 07:37 PM
Kudos to the Taser....Its a great way to remove a belligerent person that poses a threat. Without it, police have to revert back to a nasty scuffle or a night stick and who wants that? That's an even uglier sight.... A couple jolts of that electric zapper and civility returns rather quickly....keep that in mind.
bruce k February 17, 2014 at 08:38 PM
I agree, I'd bet the statistics bear out that the problems from a TASER as much less than being hit a few times with a nightstick or shot. Where would Star Trek have been if they did not have the stun setting for their phasers?

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