New policy on Link light rail after pepper-spraying incident

King County Metro has announced a new policy for Link light rail operators after a man was pepper-sprayed on Link light rail by both an operator and a deputy.

The incident was captured on cellphone video by Avery McGinnis, who takes the same train every morning. She and other passengers were alarmed by a man who was walking up and down the aisle, at times yelling and standing over people.

"Everyone was kind of scared, not really knowing what was going on, what was going to happen," McGinnis said. "We didn't know if he had something on him, if he had weapons."

After the man refused to get off the train, it stopped at Othello Station in the Rainier Valley, and passengers were instructed to get off. Surveillance video newly obtained by KIRO 7 shows the deputy motioning with her left hand, trying to get the man to leave the light rail car. In her right hand is the pepper spray, which she uses on the man before trying to physically force him off the train. Then video depicts her tossing the pepper spray to the light rail operator standing by.

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The King County Sheriff's Office stated that she told him to hold it, but the operator jumped into action.

"Looking at the video, it appears he used the pepper spray to try to help the officer," Sergeant Ryan Abbott said. "That's what was going on there."

King County Metro's rail division operates Link light rail for Sound Transit, and after reviewing the incident, a spokesperson said there is a new policy for Link light rail operators. It states that if there is an arrest or police activity involving physical struggle, operators should immediately radio the Link Control Center and not intervene to aid the officer unless that officer specifically requests assistance.

"The deputies, all of us, are trained in the use of pepper spray," Abbott said. "We go to the academy. Everybody has to be pepper-sprayed, and then we go through a whole barrage of tests while being pepper-sprayed… that's something that Metro transit operators or light rail operators are not trained in."

KIRO 7 asked Avery McGinnis what she thinks.

"I think it's good because without the proper training that officer had, they [the operators] won't be able to help in the same way or be as effective," she said.

King County Metro said the new policy will also be incorporated into training materials for operators' annual recertification to ensure everyone knows about it.