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BART Police Officer Shot and Killed in ‘Friendly Fire’ Incident in Dublin

| January 22, 2014
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BART Sgt. Tom Smith, shot to death by a fellow police officer while conducting a search Tuesday in Dublin. (Photo courtesy of BART)

BART Sgt. Tom Smith, shot to death by a fellow police officer while conducting a search Tuesday in Dublin. (Photo courtesy of BART)

Update, 12:55 p.m. Wednesday: BART has released more details of the events that led to the fatal shooting of Police Sgt. Tom Smith during a search for a robbery suspect in the East Bay town of Dublin.

Here’s the Bay Area News Group’s summary of details disclosed Wednesday by BART Police Chief Kenton Rainey and other law-enforcement officials:

The robbery suspect, John Henry Lee, 20, was in custody at Santa Rita Jail and not home when the shooting happened; Rainey said seven BART officers and one Dublin police officer were at the scene.

Alameda County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. J.D. Nelson, whose agency is investigating the shooting, said the officers converged on the Park Sierra Apartments, at 6450 Dougherty Road, at just before 2 p.m. Tuesday. [According to Rainey, the officers were aware Lee was in custody and were looking for a stolen laptop computer, among other items.] They began their search by knocking twice on the door; each knock went unanswered, but the door was unlocked, so four BART officers including Smith stepped inside, Nelson said. Not knowing whether anyone was inside the single-story, one-bedroom apartment, the officers followed protocol and entered with their guns drawn.

Nelson said that once inside, one of the officers fired a single shot from his weapon, wounding Smith in the upper body. Rainey said Smith was dressed in plainclothes and wore a bulletproof vest.

Smith later died at Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley. An autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

Nelson said the officer who fired the shot has more than 10 years experience in law enforcement. Rainey said BART officers typically carry Glock semi-automatic handguns, although some are permitted to carry different weapons.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that suspect John Henry Lee was wanted for a series of robberies that occurred on BART property and that he’d been arrested last Thursday in Oakland: “[Lee] was bitten by a police dog and arrested by San Leandro police Thursday after officials said he led officers on a 20-minute chase into Oakland. Lee had been armed with a handgun and was driving a Honda stolen from a BART lot, police said.”

Chief Rainey issued a statement on the shooting this morning and praised Smith as “a great law enforcement officer, but an even better son, brother, husband, father and friend.”

Here’s KTVU’s raw video of Rainey’s Wednesday morning press conference on the shooting:

Original post (Tuesday):

A BART police officer was shot and killed earlier today by a fellow BART officer while helping to serve a search warrant in the East Bay town of Dublin. It’s the first time a BART officer has died in the line of duty in the agency’s 42-year history.

Here’s part of the San Francisco Chronicle report:

The shooting … happened at 1:03 p.m. at the Park Sierra apartments at 6450 Dougherty Road, BART said. The officer was taken to Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, where he was pronounced dead.

Sgt. J.D. Nelson of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, which has jurisdiction in Dublin, confirmed that the officer had been shot by a colleague.

“It was either accidental or target misidentification,” he said.

Nelson said several BART officers went to an apartment in a modern complex of three-story buildings to perform a search for a man suspected of committing a series of robberies on BART property.

According to law enforcement sources, the suspect was already in custody, having been arrested recently.

The officers – all of whom wore bulletproof vests, but were not part of a SWAT team – forced entry into the apartment, Nelson said, before “one officer fired a shot which fatally struck another officer.”

Here’s part of the Bay Area News Group account as posted on the San Jose Mercury News site:

The shooting occurred at around 2 p.m. while BART and Dublin police officers were at an apartment complex in the 6400 block of Dougherty Road, said Sgt. J.D. Nelson of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office.

While inside the apartment, a BART officer fired one shot, wounding a fellow male officer, who later died at a hospital, Nelson said. Details of what led to the shooting were not immediately released.

The names of the officers have not been released. Nelson said the officers were wearing bulletproof vests at the time of the shooting; he did not say where on his body the slain officer was struck.

The officers were there to serve a warrant for a suspect who was wanted in connection with several robberies that took place on BART property, Nelson said. The suspect, whose name was not released, was not at the residence at the time, authorities said.

“This is a shocking thing for a BART officer to be killed in the line of duty,” said elected BART Director Gail Murray of Walnut Creek. “But like all peace officers, our BART police risk their lives when they go out to work in the stations and cities. We feel very saddened for the family, who would not expect to this happen to their loved ones.”

And here’s BART’s brief statement on the shooting, which does not say how the officer was wounded:

BART Police Chief Kenton Rainey and BART General Manager Grace Crunican issued the following statement:

“BART has been informed that one of our officers has died from wounds sustained during a shooting earlier today. The entire BART organization is deeply saddened by this tragic event and we ask the public to keep the officer’s family in its thoughts and prayers.”

At 1:03 pm a BART Police officer who was doing a probation search in the City of Dublin was shot. The officer was transported to a local hospital and died from his injuries. The identity of the officer is not being released at this time.

The investigation has been taken over by the Dublin Police Department. No further details are being released at this time.

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About the Author ()

Dan Brekke has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at dbrekke@kqed.org.

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