SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A black man detained and cited by police for eating a breakfast sandwich on a BART platform is suing a San Francisco Bay Area commuter train system, alleging he was racially profiled.
California state law prohibits eating in the paid area of the BART system.
Video of the incident has gone viral on social media.
The man’s attorney said BART police officers falsely states that Steven Foster resisted arrest.
Foster, of Concord, and his attorney, John Burris, filed a claim on Thursday, putting BART on notice of the civil lawsuit.
A 15-minute video of the encounter between an unidentified white BART police officer and Foster is spreading on social media, drawing angry rebukes from people who say the police reaction was ridiculous and racist.
The video, taken by Foster’s girlfriend, shows the officer holding on to Foster’s blue Mickey Mouse backpack and telling Foster he’s not free to go until he identifies himself. He tells Foster he is resisting arrest.
“I thought he was joking at first. It was early in the morning. I’ve never been stopped for something like this before so I thought he was joking but uh he put his finger in my face and said, ‘You can’t eat in BART’ and I replied back, ‘I’m not on BART. I’m on the platform and I’ll be done before I even get on the train,'” Foster said.
But the situation escalated and Foster eventually was handcuffed.
He was cited for eating the sandwich, something he said he sees people doing every day.
BART’s General Manager Bob Power apologized and said in part, “I’m disappointed how the situation unfolded. I apologize to Mr. Foster, our riders, employees and the public who have had an emotional reaction to the video.”
But that wasn’t enough for Foster.
“The harm here was what? Eating a sandwich what was the harm doing something a lot of other people do almost routinely none of whom get arrested, none of whom from what we can tell, have been treated in such a way,” Burris said.
Burris believes the BART officers involved racially profiled Foster.
“The sandwich was almost done. He was almost finished with it but yet the officer created this confrontation,” Burris said.
BART said they will not comment on a future lawsuit.
BART has 45 days to respond to the claim before Foster and his attorney file the civil suit.