SEATTLE — A passenger has sued Sound Transit in federal court because he was pushed by a fare enforcement officer, a move that resulted in a fight.
KIRO 7 obtained surveillance footage of the Sept. 24, 2013, incident. In the video a Sound Transit fare enforcement officer is seen making the initial contact of pushing the rider, Brandon Creekmore, while Creekmore's back is partially turned from him.
Creekmore's attorney, Ada Wong, said, "It's very humiliating, it's very embarrassing (for him)."
Wong said that Creekmore and his friend had ridden the train from University Station and had been asked to check their tickets to make sure they had paid their fares.
She said one fare enforcement officer verified they had paid before another officer, Terrence Carpenter, asked to check them again. She said Carpenter and Creekmore argued, and the situation escalated.
"I can't imagine what he could have said to potentially justify this," Wong said, referring to the shove in the elevator. "He was completely surprised, he was caught off guard. He was not looking at the fare enforcement officer. He practically had his back to them."
A Sound Transit use-of-force review determined Carpenter's actions were not reasonable and necessary.
In the report a reviewer states, "The initial hands on by Carpenter was not necessary as the suspect was not in a fighting stance."
It continues to say, "He did not consider retreat or disengaging with the suspect due to his concern for how it would appear in regards to respect from the suspect and other passengers. In other words, his ego."
A witness captured cellphone video of the fight continuing to the area outside the elevators facing Beacon Avenue.
Creekmore is seen at times on top of Carpenter and is heard shouting profanities. At one point, Creekmore lets go and steps back, but Carpenter re-engages him in a hold.
King County sheriff’s deputies then arrested Creekmore, but no charges were ever filed.
Sound Transit spokesperson Bruce Gray said, “We immediately asked that (Carpenter) be removed from our contract, and he hasn’t worked for Sound Transit since then.”
Gray said Sound Transit contracts with a company called Securitas Security U.S.A. for their fare enforcement officers.
Gray said he believes the lawsuit will eventually be directed at that private company. Securitas is already named in the lawsuit, in addition to Sound Transit and other officers involved in the incident.
He added that fare enforcement officers are justified in using force only in self-defense or in defense of others from physical harm.
Wong said Creekmore wants to see a change in the use-of-force policy and its implementation so that this does not happen to anyone else.
But Gray said policies have not changed because of this incident.
"We saw that this was a pretty clear violation of our policies," Gray said.
He said fare enforcement officers are typically trained for six weeks before they begin, including three weeks in the classroom and three weeks following another officer in the field.
Then they are constantly evaluated, including by some who are in plainclothes so as not to let the officers know they're being observed.