SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A public transit officer in the San Francisco Bay Area accidentally shot and killed another transit officer while they were conducting a search on the apartment of a robbery suspect who was in custody, authorities said.
Details of how Tuesday afternoon’s shooting by a Bay Area Rapid Transit officer unfolded in the East Bay city of Dublin were unclear, and sheriff’s officials were searching for answers.
“That’s going to be part of the investigation, to find out if this was some sort of an accidental discharge or whether it was a case of target misidentification,” Alameda County Sheriff’s Sgt. J.D. Nelson told KTVU-TV. “Either way it was an accident, and we’re going to try to figure out exactly what happened and the circumstances that led up to it.”
The slain officer was identified as BART Sgt. Tom Smith, 42, of San Ramon. Smith, a detective who’s been with the department for 20 years, is survived by his wife and 6-year-old daughter, Gov. Jerry Brown said in a statement.
“Sergeant Smith’s family, friends and colleagues are in our thoughts as we honor his service during this painful time,” the statement said.
The officers — members of BART’s detective unit — were searching the apartment as part of an investigation into a man suspected of committing robberies on BART property, authorities said.
Nelson said the officer who shot Smith has been in law enforcement for more than 10 years.
“You also have to understand how devastated he is at this point,” he told KTVU. “This was certainly not his intent, and you can only imagine the heartbreak that that officer has.”
The officers knew the suspect, whose name has not been released, was in custody and not home at the time, Nelson said.
They wore bulletproof vests and began their search by knocking twice on the door, Nelson told the Contra Costa Times. Each knock went unanswered, but the door was unlocked, so several of them stepped inside with their guns drawn, Nelson said.
He said the officers thought someone was inside because the door was unlocked.
Details about what happened next haven’t been released, but Nelson told the newspaper that an officer fired one shot.
Smith was taken to Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, where he died from his injuries — the first on-duty fatality in BART police’s 42-year history, authorities said.