FACT CHECK: Did BART Transit Police Arrest A Man For Eating A Sandwich On The Platform?

Brad Sylvester | Fact Check Editor

The Daily Mail shared a video on Facebook that purportedly shows a police officer arresting a man for eating a sandwich on a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) platform.

“Cop arrests black male for eating a sandwich on a BART platform,” reads the headline.

Verdict: False

A transit police officer handcuffed and detained the man, identified by news reports as Steve Foster, for refusing to provide the identification necessary to issue a citation, according to a BART spokeswoman. Foster was neither arrested nor booked.

Fact Check:

The Daily Mail shared a video, originally posted by Foster, with the headline “Cop arrests black male for eating a sandwich on a BART platform.” The video shows a confrontation between Foster and a BART transit officer, identified as D. McCormick, after the officer saw Foster eating a sandwich on a BART platform near Concord, California. It went viral over the weekend.

Foster was briefly detained and later received a citation for eating on the platform, according to a statement from BART General Manager Bob Powers. He admitted to cursing at and making homophobic slurs to the officer, reports ABC 7.

Numerous online media outlets, including NowThis and We The People, shared videos of the incident online with similar claims.

However, a BART spokeswoman told the Daily Caller News Foundation in an email that Foster was “lawfully handcuffed for repeatedly refusing to provide his identification,” not for eating his sandwich. Identification is required for a transit officer to give a citation and, according to the BART spokeswoman, failure to comply with a citation can result in detention.

“In this case, the officer observed an infraction and proceeded to attempt to issue a citation,” said Rabin Nabizadeh, an attorney at the California-based Summit Defense law firm, in an email to the DCNF. “Once the individual refused to provide his identification, the officer was within his rights to detain the individual and even formally arrest him for a violation of the far more serious Misdemeanor.”

“Once he provided his identification he was given the citation for violation of the penal code (eating in the paid area) and released,” said Alicia Trost, the chief communications officer for BART, in an email. “He was not arrested or booked.”

Both state law and BART policy prohibits the consumption of food and drink in the “Paid Area” of stations, which former BART Police Chief Gary Gee defined in a statement as “the places where you need a ticket such as inside the fare gates of a station, on platforms or on any train.” Violators face up to a $250 fine and up to 48 hours of community service, according to the state statute.

Transit officers typically have no need to write citations as commuters usually stop eating when asked, according to Trost. The transit officer in the video proceeded to cite Foster after the man refused to stop eating his sandwich.

Powers later issued an apology to “Mr. Foster, our riders, employees, and the public who have had an emotional reaction to the video.” BART’s independent police auditor is currently investigating the incident.

Foster has said that he is considering taking legal action against the transit agency, according to ABC 7.

Foster did not return the DCNF’s request for comment.

UPDATE (11/13/19): A comment from criminal defense attorney Rabin Nabizadeh of Summit Defense has been added to the article.

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Brad Sylvester

Fact Check Editor
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