SF Bay Area Transit Cop Lost Her Officer Husband to Friendly Firely
San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit Police Sergeant Tom Smith Jr., 42, was shot and killed by friendly fire, while leading a raid on a suspect’s home in Dublin, California, a city about 25 miles from Oakland in January 2014.
On Friday, Smith’s wife, who is also a BART officer, filed a lawsuit against the BART Police department alleging that her husband had told her to “sue the shit” out of the agency and Deputy Police Chief Ben Fairow if anything happened to him, for systematically denying his requests for more training and tactical teams.
“As a result of these repeated denials, my husband said to me, ‘If anything happens to me, I want you to sue the s— out of BART and Fairow.’ ” Kellie Smith wrote in a letter to the BART board of directors and Police Department managers. “My husband’s words will stay with me forever. I cannot let this situation and his concern for his fellow officers go unanswered.”
No charges were filed against the officer who killed Smith as it was ruled a tragic “blue on blue” accident instead of another trigger-happy cop in fear for his life at the hands of a dangerous suspect.
“When Detective Maes saw the ‘shadowy figure’ with an upraised firearm suddenly emerge from the dark walk-in closet area, he concluded that he was confronting an armed suspect who posed an imminent threat of serious injury or death to himself and his fellow officer,” deputy district attorney John Creighton wrote in his report on the incident.
However, the SWAT team’s suspect was already in police custody at the time of the search when eight cops walked into the apartment, some in uniform and some in plainclothes.
According to CBS after the shooting:
wasn’t there, Rainey said. There were two BART officers in uniform, five plainclothes BART officers—including Smith—and an Alameda County sheriff’s deputy, Rainey said.
The door to the apartment was unlocked, which may have led the officers to believe there was someone else inside, Alameda County sheriff’s Sgt. J.D. Nelson said at Wednesday’s news conference.
Rainey declined to go into specifics about how the shooting happened, including whether the officers had their guns drawn, but did say that in general, officer do sometimes have their guns drawn when doing probation searches because “you never know what’s on the other side of the door.”
He said the officers were looking for a stolen laptop, a laptop bag and other related items that they believe Lee may have stolen.
Rainey said officers who conduct probation searches like Tuesday’s typically wear bulletproof vests, but he did not confirm that Smith was wearing one when he was shot.
He also declined to say whether the officers involved were wearing lapel cameras. He said that under the BART Police Department’s policy, lapel cameras are mandatory for uniformed officers and optional for plainclothes officers.
The next day, police said he was wearing a vest, but the bullet struck him on the chest outside the west. And it turns out, none of the officers were wearing a lapel camera, even though that was a practice they were supposed to being since 2009 since the infamous Oscar Grant shooting.
Kellie Smith, a 20-year veteran of the force, alleges that the concerns her husband had about lack of training were often mocked by Chief Fairow.
Her lawsuit states that Fairow “denied training and denigrated officers when training and/or involvement of tactical teams were discussed,” saying that it was all “bullshit” and that officers were “pussies” because they had “training like this in the police academy.”
The widow maintains that she has deep loyalty to the BART Police Department and officers, and that her lawsuit comes “with deep regret and a heavy heart,” only after her attempts to address the issues privately fell on deaf ears.
In addition to seeking damages, Smith’s lawsuit seeks an injunction to stop the department from “forcing employees to perform tactical operations without having the requisite training.”