A California man was detained and handcuffed by transit police officers after he refused to acknowledge a citation for eating a sandwich on a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) platform as he waited for a train on November 4.
Steve Foster and his girlfriend, Nicole Hernandez, were standing on the BART platform heading to work when they noticed a police officer beginning to approach Foster, who was eating a breakfast sandwich, Hernandez told Storyful.
According to Hernandez, the police officer, whose name tag read D. McCormick, initially said he was looking for an intoxicated woman, but then told Foster he was going to be cited for eating on the BART, to which Foster replied that he would be finished with his meal before the train arrived.
Hernandez told Storyful, “The cop said, ‘No, I’m citing you. It doesn’t matter. You can’t eat on BART.’ Steve shrugged it off as our train pulled up, and the cop grabbed him. That’s when I started to record.”
The video Hernandez recorded shows the police officer hanging onto Foster’s bag, and Foster asking several times for him to let go.
Foster and his girlfriend tell the police officer they eat on the platform every morning and ask why there are multiple places to purchase food right next to the platform if they are not allowed to eat in the area.
Foster uses multiple curse words and directs slurs at the officer during their conversation.
Eventually, several other officers arrive, place handcuffs on Foster, and guide him onto a bench beneath the BART platform. Another officer tells Foster that he was called because someone matching Foster’s description was causing a disturbance on the platform.
Hernandez then says to the officers, “No, no, now you’re changing it. That’s not what he said he stopped him for,” referencing McCormick.
One of the recently arrived officers replies, “Ma’am, stay out of it, please.”
One of the officers turns to Hernandez and says that Foster is being placed under arrest and they are relocating him to another, quieter location to further investigate the incident. They take him behind a yellow door that Hernandez was not permitted to go through.
Foster was released 45 minutes after the initial confrontation with McCormick, according to KTVU.
Foster told KTVU that he thinks he was singled out for citation “because of the color of my skin.”
Hernandez and Foster posted the video to social media, where it quickly went viral, gaining enough traction and angering enough community members that there was an “eat-in” staged at another BART station to show support for Foster, according to reports.
BART General Manager Bob Powers said in a statement that he was “disappointed” in how the situation unfolded and that it is illegal to eat inside the “paid area” of the platform due to concerns of cleanliness. He noted that Foster “refused to provide identification, cursed at, and made homophobic slurs at the officer who remained calm throughout the entire engagement.
“Enforcement of infractions such as eating and drinking inside our paid area should not be used to prevent us from delivering on our mission to provide safe, reliable, and clean transportation,” the statement read.
Powers’s statement also said, "I apologize to Mr Foster, our riders, employees, and the public who have had an emotional reaction to the video.”
Powers said an independent police auditor will be conducting an investigation that will be presented to a citizen review board, according to reports. Credit: Nicole Hernandez via Storyful