A black man who was detained for eating a sandwich on the platform of BART’s Pleasant Hill station on Nov. 4 filed a claim against the transit agency on Thursday alleging that he was racially profiled.
Steve Foster, 31, of Concord, alleges in the claim that BART officers selectively detained him based on his race in the incident on the platform at 8 a.m. on Nov. 4 as he waited for a train to take him to his job as a tech operator in San Francisco.
Speaking at a news conference at the office of his attorney John Burris, Foster said he had bought a sandwich at a cafe at the Pleasant Hill station and was eating it on the platform when BART Officer David McCormick suddenly confronted him and told him:
“You can’t eat on BART.”
Foster said of McCormick, who is white:
“You could see he already wanted to put me in handcuffs.”
Burris said McCormick and other BART officers ultimately handcuffed Foster for an hour and called him names before they cited him for eating at the station and released him.
“(Foster) was humiliated, embarrassed and disrespected and seemed to be singled out.”
BART has a policy of not allowing people to eat on its platforms or trains but Burris said that policy is not well-marked and is rarely enforced.
Because of that, Burris said he believes “there was an undercurrent of a racial component” to the incident.
Burris said Foster was almost finished eating his sandwich and McCormick could have just told him to quickly finish it but instead escalated the situation into a confrontation.
Foster said he frequently buys a sandwich at the cafe at the Pleasant Hill station and eats it on the platform before he boards his train and said he’d never previously been warned by BART police not to eat at the station.
Foster said he knows passengers aren’t supposed to eat on BART trains but wasn’t aware that they also aren’t allowed to eat on the transit agency’s platforms.
Burris, who frequently files lawsuits against law enforcement agencies accusing them of misconduct, said:
“The incident was a small matter but an important matter in which there was disrespect for an African American man.”
Burris said the claim is the precursor to a lawsuit that he will file on Foster’s behalf against BART.
The claim doesn’t seek a specific amount of damages but says the total is more than $25,000.
BART said in a statement that it “will not comment on a future lawsuit.”
BART General Manager Bob Powers said in a statement on Monday that the transit agency’s Independent Police Auditor is investigating the case and will report findings to the agency’s Citizen Review Board.
Powers said Officer McCormick asked Foster not to eat and decided to move forward with a citation when Foster continued to do so.
Powers also said Foster refused to provide identification and used homophobic slurs during the confrontation.
Powers expressed disappointment about the way in which the interaction unfolded, but said that eating in BART stations creates a concern for station cleanliness and is a violation of state law.
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