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 15, 2014 at 02:15 PM
As stated in another article; BART's 2013 policy manual states it is "reasonable" for officers to subdue an individual with a stun gun if a "potentially violent or physically resisting subject" has shown intention to resist and if an officer can justify that the suspect "poses an immediate threat to the officer or others." Its that "immediate threat" part that is important here. A drunk guy laying on the ground and refusing to get up does not strike me as a situation that would cause an officer to feel in danger or under "immediate threat". I think its excessive.
Phillip Bailey February 15, 2014 at 02:28 PM
Being a law enforcement officer these days is a lose - lose situation Courtney. Almost everything they do gets scrutinized. If your husband, son, nephew or niece were a peace officer and they had the down time to tell you their side(s) of the story - perhaps/perhaps not - you'd feel differently.
RWCopLady February 15, 2014 at 06:16 PM
Thanks Phillip.
Courtney Carreras February 15, 2014 at 06:24 PM
I understand what you are saying Philip and agree that the job is very difficult. However, I don't think that excuses us from scrutinizing how the law is enforced and speaking up when things go too far. If my son, or other family member had too much to drink and was being a stinker, I would also not want him treated in a overzealous and violent fashion.
Phillip Bailey February 15, 2014 at 07:39 PM
I disagree but civil discourse on here is much appreciated. Also @ RWCopLady: You're welcome.
Andrew Marks February 16, 2014 at 02:01 PM
Bottom line is the guy was belligerent, drunk, and refusing multiple requests to leave the train after harrassing law abiding citizens. He deserves what he got v
bruce k February 16, 2014 at 03:45 PM
I'd say in this case the "immediate threat" is that the man is leaving the officer no alternative other than to remove him from the train. That means there is or could be a violent altercation, since the man is refusing to listen to or obey the officer. If I was sitting there with wife, kids, older relatives, and these two had to go at it because this man would not leave the train, it would be a problem and someone could get hurt. The officer might have done any number of things, but I do not fault him for tazing the guy, he all but asked for it. The badly behaving people just seem to love the attention and screaming and whining and carrying on. Drama and spectacle are not what people should be aiming for when they take public transit, and these kinds of people make it much less likely most normal people will want to take public transit.
Joellen Bell February 17, 2014 at 01:21 PM
Courtney I totally disagree with you. It is nice to see Bart cops around to help. I have ridden the Bart train and followed from car to car. It is scary & thank God for a construction worker that told me to come sit by him til the train stopped & walked me down to the 1st floor. But no cops were around. I am thankful there are cops around. And if u r son, nephew or husband are being little stinkers are the train then they deserve to be detained. Why is it okay to harass and disturb hard working citizens that just want to get from one place to another because you decided to drink to much? Also he resisted because he had a parole violation for another crime he committed. I just want to ride Bart without being harassed or feel intimidated by little stinkers as you call them. I hope you are never left on a train with one of these little stinkers to fend for yourself...if you are deal with and don't bother calling 911 because as you said "they are just little stinkers".
Courtney Carreras February 17, 2014 at 01:45 PM
OK, as usual, people are taking what I said and running with it. I rode public transportation exclusively for years in SF and dealt with all kinds of minor nuisances myself. What I am saying here is that watching the video, in my opinion, there were other ways to deal with this guy other than repeated tasing - which can kill a person, and has in the past. My other point is, just because policing is a difficult job, and much appreciated, it doesn't mean that we as citizens should never criticize what police do. Its our responsibility to be vigilant against abuses of power. Was it OK for the police to shoot the guy who came to someone's door for help after an accident because the homeowner was scared? Even the woman who was on the train and dealt with the guy defended him and said he wasn't doing anything. I don't know what happened prior, so cannot say definitively either way. I am saying that to me it looked unnecessary and that we have not only a right, but a responsibility to speak up if we see abuses of power. Joellen - i'm obviously not saying I don't want Bart police on the trains, and its ridiculous to take my statement and draw that conclusion from it. And being detained it much different from being repeatedly tased - of course they can be detained if they are truly being threatening to people - again taking what I said and running with it. But once again, people love to stir up the drama on Patch.
bruce k February 17, 2014 at 02:39 PM
Hey Courtney, there are other ways to deal with this guy, I agree, but if you were the "manager of the world", how much time and resources would you throw at every minor situation like this? Think about how would you decide to make this decision. I'm just guessing, but I think neither one of us know how this started for sure or why. But say you are a cop and you come up on a car with this guy being belligerent and I'm assuming drunk. He is shabbily dressed, rude acting, and he does not seem interested in following the rules. What do you do? And what do you take into account about what you do and how it affects incidents like this in the future, and the audience, attorneys, judge and jurors who might hear about it? There is something to be said for your point of view about TASERs being possibly dangerous, but just as much so that man could have been dangerous. He could have flailed about or been a very proficient fighter, or had no pain sensitivity and fought long past the point where he was really injured - and he seemed to have no regard for his own safety or others. In the fight, you, you're the officer now, could get a broken nose, a gouged eye, or eye hit your head by accident and die. Every violent act is not like we see it in the movies, each act contains the potential for permanent and grievous injury. Should it be you, the officer, or this guy. How long do you want to wait to do something. You can call for backup, but meanwhile what happens, and what are people thinking? I think it has to be the officer's call. What I see the problem as being is one of officer training and one of officer discipline. There are officer who do seem to use excessive force, but I don't think this was one of them. People have to assume responsibity for their behavior when they are out in public. I sure seem to have no problem doing that - most of the people I know do not either. How about you or the people you know, do you act like that in public, and what do you think you open yourself to if you did? If the police departments would discipline officers who were actually guilty of something, like the shooting of the young boy a while back who was holding a toy gun. That seemed to me from what I heard to be an incident where some action needed to be taken against the officer ... this does not. Perhaps a post incident wrap-up and investigation, and see if any lessons can be learned. There needs to be a price for behavior like this or else losers from everywhere will jump on public transit to get attention thinking they can become celebrities of sue the police ... that's you and me most of the time as taxpayers.
Joellen Bell February 17, 2014 at 03:16 PM
Amen to that Bruce. Now I am going to go on to enjoy my day off.
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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