BART police arrest suspect allegedly behind 2 attacks

- BART police on Monday announced the arrest of a suspect that they say is behind two attacks on the train last week, hours after they released his photos.

At a news conference, Deputy Chief Ed Alvarez said an Oakland fire investigator thought he recognized the suspect at 9th Street and Broadway and alerted a patrol sergeant, who in turn, called for backup about 8:30 a.m. BART officers helped arrest the man within 2.5 hours of his photo being released, Alvarez said.

"He's our man," Alvarez said.

The suspect, identified as Mario Christopher Washington, 42,  of Berkeley, has a previous criminal history, which includes commercial robberies, strong arm robbery, and a shoplifting arrest from the Kohl's at Great Mall  in Milpitas.

 He was booked Monday on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and battery. However, his mug shot and the photo taken from the video surveillance prompted many to question whether it was indeed the same man. BART police did not provide any evidence other than the photo to link Washington to the crimes.

Alvarez touted the transit agency's new surveillance cameras, which captured the suspect's image and led to the quick arrest once the photos were made public. There was nothing stolen in either of these attacks.

BART police acknowledged that officers were not riding the trains or nearby on the platforms after these attacks occurred, prompting a firestorm of criticism on social media from people demanding better security.

"There needs to be undercover security or police on every train," Miri Michelle Miller wrote on KTVU's Facebook page, a sentiment echoed by many.

Alvarez countered that more officers will be deployed after KTVU asked him whether or not there were any officers riding aboard the trains. The answer was no. Alvarez added quickly:  "You'll see more officers on the trains."

The two attacks were reported on Aug. 3 and Aug. 5. In one of the attacks, a victim's sister-in-law told KTVU that the suspect hit her brother-in-law over the head with a wrench at the San Leandro BayFair station. That man went to the hospital, but was released the next day. Alvarez said the weapon was actually a bolt cutter, which the suspect swung at the victim, who was simply sitting on BART. The suspect was seen holding a can of beer just before the attack.

In the latter attack, a victim was on a San Francisco-bound train and hit a man in his mouth near the Embarcadero Station twice and then fled. In both cases, the attack was unprovoked, police said.

Those attacks preceded an attack Aug. 6 when a couple was pepper-sprayed by a young girl at a BART station in San Francisco.

"This is pretty concerning for us," Alvarez said.

Calls seeking help from BART police shot up in the first six months of the year at all but two of 46 train stations, keeping pace with a 35 percent increase in robberies and a 27 percent jump in assaults compared with the same period in 2016, the San Francisco Chronicle reported using data obtained through a public records request.

But while misdemeanor arrests were up through the end of June, along with citations for offenses such as fare evasion, felony arrests dropped 23 percent year to year.

The increase in crime this year has been heavily concentrated in a handful of stations in Oakland and San Francisco, the data shows.

BART officials said that, according to their calculations, 1.6 robberies took place for every million passenger trips in 2016 — a number that could increase by a tenth of a percentage point this year.

KTVU'S Lisa Fernandez and Alex Savidge contributed to this report.

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