A D.C. Metropolitan Transit officer arrested a 24-year old woman on Wednesday and pinned her to the ground with a taser, ripping her shirt and exposing her chest. The alleged unforgivable crime that caused this reaction? Fare evasion.
WJLA in DC obtained cell phone video of the incident, as well as a statement from D.C. Metro Transit Police (emphasis mine):
At approximately 8:50 a.m. today, a uniformed Metro Transit Police Officer attempted to stop an adult female for fare evasion. The woman ignored the officer, refusing multiple commands to stop. When the officer took hold of the woman’s arm, she pulled away and downward, causing the two to fall to the ground. The officer was able to gain control of the situation and awaited priority backup before safety taking the woman into custody. There were no injuries.
The incident caused a crowd to gather around the officer while he was attempting to restrain the woman, including at least one male subject who threatened the officer. For safety reasons consistent with protocol, the officer maintained his department-issued TASER in a “low ready” position until backup arrived. TASER was not deployed during this incident.
As is standard whenever there is a use of force, MTPD command staff will review the arrest to ensure that all department policies and protocols were followed.
The woman, age 24, was charged with Assault on a Police Officer and Fare Evasion.
It’s worth noting that by the police’s own admission, the charge of “assault on a police officer” is constituted by the woman “pull[ing] away and downward,” although WJLA reported that witnesses said that the officer threw her on the ground. (WJLA also said a lot of witnesses were upset because they thought the officer was waving a gun, but it turned out to be a taser.)
“It was an excessive reaction,” bystander Courtney Alexander told WJLA in D.C. “It didn’t need to go that far, even if she didn’t pay the, what, three dollars to ride the train.”
“He tore off her shirt, her chest was actually bare,” Justin Kwasa told WJLA. “So there were obviously signs of physical harm that was given to her.”
In a tweet, the DC chapter of Black Lives Matter said that the woman was in the hospital.
D.C. began “cracking down” on fare evasion last May, after the city said it was losing $20 million a year because of it. The penalty is a $50 fine and a court appearance. But there were problems even before that: in 2016, a D.C. transit officer kicked a teenage girl’s leg out from under her and shoved her to the ground while arresting her for having a big of chips in a metro station.
At a September board meeting of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, a woman associated with a local transportation justice group described one incident she saw soon after more aggressive policing of fare evasion was implemented. Per WAMU:
“The way WMATA treats its riders, particularly people of color, is unacceptable,” testified Brianna Musselman, who said she witnessed officers pinning “a young black man to the ground” at Gallery Place station in June.
“The man’s arms were pinned under his own body with the added weight of two transit police officers on top of him, and yet the officers continued to demand that he somehow get his arms behind his back,” said Musselman, a Green Line rider. “He couldn’t do it, and so one of the officers pepper-sprayed the man, not once but several times in the face.”
Things don’t appear to have changed much. In February, Metro Transit Police violently arrested a woman for alleged fare evasion at a bus stop, fracturing her knee, putting 12 stitches in her mouth, and breaking four teeth in the process. “I cry. I cry all of the time,” Diamond Rust told WUSA. “Just waking up crying. It hurts.”
We’ve emailed the D.C. Metropolitan Transit Police Department to confirm whether or not the woman was taken to the hospital and what her injuries were, and will update with any response we receive. In the meantime, maybe they should follow the advice of one hero NYPD cop and just let this shit go next time.