Zusha Elinson, 7/25/11
The BART police officer who shot and killed Charles Hill is James A. Crowell, who has been on the force for 18 months, according to police recordings and a person familiar with the investigation into the shooting.
Myron Lee, a six-year veteran, was the other BART police officer on the scene when Crowell shot Hill after a 25-second confrontation on the Civic Center platform, according to those same sources.
Both officers are back at work after taking three days of administrative leave, BART spokesman Linton Johnson.
BART police have refused to identify the two officers involved in the July 3 shooting, citing the ongoing investigations. BART placed a black bar over Crowell’s eyes in the surveillance video of the incident it released last week.
In recordings of police calls released to The Bay Citizen Friday, fellow BART police personnel show great concern for the two officers, who are named repeatedly, in the moments after the incident. In one call, a BART police employee asks who Crowell is. “He’s one of the newbies,” the dispatcher responds. “Holy shit,” the man says.
Much is still unclear about what led Crowell to shoot Hill, a homeless man known for drinking and yelling. The surveillance video shows Crowell getting off the train, putting on gloves and, suddenly, backing up, drawing his gun and firing three times.
Hill cannot be seen in the video, but BART police Chief Kenton Rainey said Thursday that Hill suddenly raised a knife with a 4-inch blade over his head in a threatening manner and didn’t drop the weapon when ordered to do so by the young officer. Rainey would not say how far Hill was from Crowell at the time of the shooting.
A witness told The Bay Citizen earlier this month that Hill was “definitely” not “running or lunging” at the officers when he was shot.
Lee is only seen in the beginning of the video. According to Rainey, Lee suffered a minor cut on his arm from a liquor bottle that Hill tossed at the officers. It is unclear what Lee was doing when Crowell fired the shots.
Harry Stern, a lawyer for both officers, said they acted correctly.
“They’re both excellent officers with unblemished records,” said Stern. “They responded to a really standard call, which immediately went sidewise, and they reacted in keeping their training and applicable standards.”
Stern said that both of his clients voluntarily submitted to interviews with BART internal affairs and the San Francisco Police Department, which is investigating the shooting as well.
Rainey has consistently backed his officers and the actions they took, saying “the notion that you have to be stabbed, beaten or shot before defending yourself is false.” According to BART police, Hill was armed with two knives. Rainey said Thursday that the officer who shot Hill was the one in danger, not the other officer or any member of the public.
Rainey said that neither of the officers had been involved in a shooting incident before. Deputy Chief Daniel Hartwig called both of them “productive” police officers.
According to the Bay Area Newspaper Group’s Public Employee Salary database, Lee has a pay and benefits package worth $164,518 and a base salary of $85,428. Crowell’s total pay and benefits package is worth $80,945. His base salary is $42,477, an entry-level salary at the BART police department.
Johnson would not confirm or deny the names of the officers, saying, “In an investigation where there’s a potential personnel issue, we don’t release the names. Once we do the investigation and we are satisfied there is no personnel issue, then we release the names.”