A video posted on YouTube depicting a confrontation on an MBTA bus in Roxbury between a Transit Police officer and a woman accused of stealing has spurred an investigation, police said Saturday.
In the video, which was filmed from a distance inside the bus, the officer appears to raise his baton and strike the woman repeatedly, before pushing her into a seat in the back of the bus. The woman then lunges at the officer, screaming incoherently.
Transit Police Lieutenant Richard Sullivan said the woman on the bus was confronted by the officer Friday after a vendor in the MBTA’s Dudley Square station told him she had stolen something from her cart. The vendor walked with the officer to the Route 15 bus, according to Sullivan, and pointed out the alleged thief.
Sullivan said the officer asked the woman to step off the bus, but she refused and threw rubbing alcohol in his face.
“He’s on a bus giving her lawful orders to cease her behavior and she’s assaulting him,” Sullivan said. “He obviously felt threatened.”
Nino Brown, a 24-year-old Boston man who took the video that is circulating online, said he was alarmed by the officer’s intensity, so he took out his phone to record the incident. Brown is an organizer of Mass Action Against Police Brutality, an activist group.
Brown began recording after the confrontation was underway and his footage is partially blocked by other passengers who stand in front of him, taking their own cellphone videos.
“He ran up to her, and began barking in her face,” Brown said in a telephone interview Saturday. “He didn’t do anything to de-escalate the situation or calm her down. He escalated the situation.”
In the chaotic video, passengers scream and run toward the tussle. The woman stands up and smacks the officer in the chest. Then, the officer draws his gun and passengers begin to chant “drop the gun.”
“I was scared,” Brown said. “Everyone was shaken up.”
Brown said about five officers boarded the bus, with their hands on their guns, and restrained the woman.
“It seemed unnecessary,” Brown said. “How many adult men does it take to bring down one woman?"
The woman was arrested on larceny charges, according to Sullivan, who would not identify her or provide details of what she was accused of stealing. He said she is scheduled to be arraigned on the charge in Roxbury District Court Monday morning.
Sullivan said the altercation occurred because when the officer approached the accused woman, “she chose to be non-compliant and combative,” and struck him.
Sullivan did not identify the officer, but said he is a “veteran police officer, who is well-respected in the department.”
The officer has been reassigned to administrative duty, while the department conducts “a fair and thorough” investigation, Sullivan said
“All that woman had to do was behave as a responsible citizen and engage peacefully,” Sullivan said.
Jacqueline Tempera can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on twitter @jacktemp