BART officer involved in fatal shooting will not face criminal charges 

click to enlarge Video surveillance from BART's Civic Center station shows the July 3 incident in which transient Charles Hill was fatally shot by a transit agency officer. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Video surveillance from BART's Civic Center station shows the July 3 incident in which transient Charles Hill was fatally shot by a transit agency officer.

The BART officer who shot and killed 45-year-old Charles Hill at the Civic Center Station last July, an act that sparked months of riots, will not face criminal charges regarding the incident.

Officer James Crowell acted “lawfully in self-defense,” when fatally shooting Hill, according to a report released by the San Francisco District Attorney’s office. Hill, a transient who was drunk and high on methamphetamines at the time of the incident, brandished a 3- or 4-inch knife at officers Crowell and Myron Lee during the confrontation, which took place July 3.

Officer Crowell, who was within 15 feet of Hill — close enough to be deemed in the “danger zone” of the knife — told Hill to drop the blade, according to the DA’s report. When Hill responded by making a throwing motion, Crowell fired three shots, killing the man, the report said.

Crowell said he feared for his and Lee’s life during the incident. He did not consider using his department-issued Taser, according to the report.

“I wouldn’t have even thought about,” Crowell said, according to the report. “The situation he’s presenting, a deadly weapon ... So my first thought was deadly weapon. My training tells me to present, you know, an equal or greater force and that’s why I’m instructed to fire because I didn’t feel that any other weapon or anything else on my belt is going to meet what he’s presenting.”

In the wake of the Hill shooting, BART was the frequent subject of protest by activists angered at the second recent shooting involving the transit agency’s police force. On Jan. 1, 2009, Oscar Grant, an unarmed passenger, was fatally shot in the back by Officer Johannes Mehserle. Mehserle served less than a year in jail for involuntary manslaughter.

Last year’s protests against the agency intensified following a decision by BART to shut off cellphone service in four downtown stations to quell a planned gathering. The agency has since adopted a policy to only shut down cellphone service in the wake of extraordinary circumstances, such as 9/11 type events.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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Will Reisman

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