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Self Defense Tip for BART Users: RUN!!!!

A man brandishing a chainsaw on BART. Image captured from Twitter

Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content.

A man was videoed on BART on Monday unboxing and wielding two chainsaws, in addition to threatening to cut the "freaking head off" of nobody in particular.

As was widely reported, the incident was videoed and posted on Twitter.

BART's communications arm responded that the best "...thing to do is to snap a pic and send it to dispatch via BART Watch App."

But perhaps the oddest thing about this incident isn't the guy with the chainsaws--it's the blasé reactions of the other passengers, including the woman taking the video. Maybe if someone on your train is waving chainsaws and threatening to chop someone's head off, run and don't just film it for your social media?

"Treat it like a skunk--go in the other direction," advised BART Board President Robert Raburn about what to do when confronted with a man brandishing chainsaws, in a phone interview with Streetsblog.

"On your way out of the car, note the car number, and when you're safe and secure note the situation with a clear description--in this case a suspect with two chainsaws, backwards baseball cap, light shirt, skin type etc.," continued Raburn.


The good news is passengers did report the incident on the BART Watch App. As a result, police were waiting for the 47-year-old suspect Patrick Bingman at Lake Merritt Station, reports NBC. He was easy for police to spot--he was the only guy coming off the train with chainsaws.

But the incident points to a number of things that are working--and items that still need to be improved--as BART struggles to make its system feel safer.

The cars in BART's new "fleet of the future," explained Raburn, have emergency call boxes and are WIFI enabled, with cameras that police can access the moment someone reports a problem. "The cameras would allow officers to see inside the cars... so they can identify what the situation is like inside." It lets police find a suspect more quickly and see in advance what they're up against. These WIFI cameras may eventually be added to the older cars. "I don't think I'd have any opposition on the board to making that retrofit," said Raburn.

The BART Watch App did its job this time, but riders still need to be able to identify what car they're in. Unfortunately, the car numbers are marked on the outside of the car (which is of little use to passengers on a moving train) and at both ends, over the doors. Raburn sees an advantage to putting the car number in more locations, such as on the ceiling, so the number is visible even on a fully packed train.

For now though, the best thing people can do, he suggests, is download the BART Watch App and get familiar with it--but please don't use it to complain about minor offenses, such as eating on the train (Raburn said someone once used it to complain about a passenger who smelled bad). But never hesitate to use it to report dangerous behaviors.

As police officers have suggested in previous posts, try to stay engaged with your surroundings. And make a distinction between someone displaying odd but probably benign behavior versus someone wielding, unpacking, or otherwise fiddling around with a lethal weapon.

In other words, if you see someone holding an ice pick or knife, unboxing a chainsaw, or wielding a pipe, machete, flame-thrower, or gun, forget about posting it on social media--just get the hell out of there, get someplace safe, and call for help.

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