OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) – The brother of a homeless man who was killed by transit police sued the Bay Area Rapid Transit District in Federal Court.
The late Charles Hill allegedly was shot three times by BART Officer James Crowell, allegedly after Hill threw a knife at the officer. The killing set off protests that repeatedly shut down the transit system in the fall of 2011.
Plaintiff Chris Hill, Charles’ brother, claims Crowell and fellow BART Officer Myron Lee responded to a call from a BART employee on July 3, 2011 about a man with an open alcohol container on a station platform.
Hill says the officers shouted “conflicting and confusing commands” at his brother when they arrived. He says his brother threw down his bottle of alcohol, and Crowell pulled his gun and aimed it at Hill, who walked slowly toward them, pulled out a small folding knife and threw it at Crowell.
The knife missed “by a large margin” but Crowell “inexplicably” shot Hill three times in the chest, killing him, according to the complaint.
In the weeks after the killing, multiple protests shut down parts of the transit system. The shooting came about 18 months after another BART Officer, Johannes Mehserle, shot and killed an unarmed black BART rider on New Years Eve 2009. That set off a series of violent protests and lawsuits against the transit agency.
Mehserle was sentenced to 2 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter, which set off yet another riot in Oakland.
Officer Crowell completed a transfer to the FBI in July, which had been planned before the shooting, according to media reports.
Chris Hill seeks funeral expenses and punitive damages for wrongful death and civil rights violations. Named as defendants are BART, Crowell, Lee, and BART Police Chief Kenton Rainey.
Hill is represented by John Burris of Oakland.