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BART takeover robbery: 40 to 60 teens swarm train, rob weekend riders

San Francisco Chronicle logo San Francisco Chronicle 25/04/2017 Demian Bulwa
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Related video: Teens Commandeer BART Train In Violent Takeover Robbery Of Passengers (provided by CBS SF Bay Area)

A recent string of robberies on BART trains took a frightening turn when dozens of juveniles swarmed an Oakland station over the weekend and commandeered a train car, forcing passengers to hand over bags and cell phones and leaving at least two with head injuries, witnesses told the transit agency.

The incident — the first of its kind in recent memory — occurred around 9:30 p.m. Saturday at Coliseum Station.

According to police officials, witnesses said 40 to 60 juveniles flooded the station, jumped the fare gates and rushed to the second-story train platform. Some of the robbers apparently held open the doors of a Dublin-bound train car while others streamed inside, confronting and robbing and in some cases beating riders.

The juveniles “committed multiple strong-arm robberies of bags and cell phones,” said a police summary prepared after the incident. “At least two victims suffered head/facial injuries requiring medical attention.”

Alicia Trost, a BART spokeswoman, said Monday that seven robberies had occurred — with victims losing a purse, a duffel bag and five phones. Six people were robbed inside the train car, with a seventh confronted on the platform, she said.

The attack was quick, police reported, and the teenagers were able to retreat from the station and vanish into the surrounding East Oakland neighborhood before BART officers could respond. The train that was hit was held for about 15 minutes as authorities investigated the crime and tended to the injured.

“We are in the process of pulling all surveillance video and we will share with Oakland police, Oakland Unified School District and Oakland Housing Authority to see if they can help identify the minors,” Trost said. “We have had success with sharing images of juveniles with this group and identifying and making arrests in the past.”

A woman walks through the MacArthur Bart Station in Oakland, Calif. on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016. Rain is coming through the Bay Area and is expected to last through part of the weekend.

A woman walks through the MacArthur Bart Station in Oakland, Calif. on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016. Rain is coming through the Bay Area and is expected to last through part of the weekend.
© James Tensuan, Special To The Chronicle

The images cannot be shared publicly, she said, because the suspects appear to be minors.

BART is also checking with Oakland police to see if any other incidents Saturday night — such as a big house party being broken up — might shed light on the identity of the suspects.

A series of robberies on BART trains in recent weeks has prompted the agency to increase patrols — though this was apparently the first takeover-style heist.

The incident is likely to present a challenge for BART, which hired a new police chief last week. The agency has struggled to contain fare evaders, and is in the midst of installing surveillance cameras in train cars after The Chronicle reported that most of the existing cameras were decoys.

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