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Man with meat cleaver terrorizes San Francisco train passengers, stabs 1

By Jimmy Adeel
|
May 12, 2023

Passengers on a BART train in San Francisco were terrorized by a cleaver-wielding convict trapped with them in an underwater tunnel. The suspect was seen pacing menacingly on the train before allegedly attacking a man. This event represents a new low for the city, which has been grappling with a rising crime rate in recent months.

Authorities arrested Charles Johnson, 24, in connection with the incident on the Transbay Tube.

The arrest happened at the West Oakland station around 1 p.m. Wednesday. Johnson, now detained at Santa Rita jail, faces charges of assault with a deadly weapon, robbery, and probation violation, as reported by the Daily Mail.

Johnson reportedly masked with a balaclava, attempted to steal a backpack from another passenger on the Antioch-bound Yellow line train.

In the process, he allegedly slashed the victim, a 25-year-old man, with the meat cleaver. The victim was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Escalating Crime Rates in San Francisco

San Francisco's crime rates have seen a disturbing rise in recent months. This increase has forced retail stores such as Target, H&M, CVS, and Walgreens to close their doors due to rampant shoplifting and intimidation from homeless individuals.

This incident on the BART train underscores the city's dire law and order situation.

Witnesses described a scene of panic and fear on the BART train. With the train in transit, passengers pleaded with the operator to increase the speed to reach the West Oakland station more quickly and escape the chaos. The suspect instilled such fear that passengers were seen jumping out of the way and running through the cars to maintain distance from him.

“When you actually see someone walking up and down BART with a cleaver — it was scary, and everyone just wanted to get as far away from him as possible, which is hard to do on a BART in the middle of the tunnel," James Temple, a journalist on the train, said.

BART's Response and Crime Statistics

BART released a statement expressing its commitment to maximizing the visible presence of officers in the system. Starting in March, BART Police Department adopted a new strategy that more than doubled the presence of sworn officers on trains, SFGATE reported.  This change means an additional eight to 18 officers per shift are patrolling trains in BART’s core service area.

However, crime statistics paint a grim picture. In 2022, BART reported four homicides, seven rapes, 225 robberies, and 114 aggravated assaults. These figures represent an increase from 2021, where the reported incidents were zero, eight, 143, and 71, respectively, in each category. Violent crimes on the BART system have risen since 2019, which recorded 499 violent crimes.

Despite the drop in total crime figures during the pandemic in 2020, when fewer people were using the system, the numbers have been growing steadily. The total number of crimes on the BART system in 2022 stood at 1,732.

Controversial Legislation Proposal

A recent proposal by San Francisco lawmaker Dean Preston has stirred controversy. Preston, an attorney and member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, pushed for legislation to ban store security guards from drawing their guns after the death of Banko Brown, a trans shoplifter who Walgreens security guard Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony shot. The murder charge against Anthony was dropped after the city's DA ruled the killing was in self-defense.

Preston argued that human life is more important than property and that local laws should be changed to prevent security guards from unholstering their weapons merely to protect property. Critics contended that his proposal would exacerbate San Francisco's crime problem.

Shoplifting Issues in San Francisco Retail Stores

As the city grapples with crime, workers in a San Francisco Target store claim shoplifting incidents occur every 10 minutes. The city has seen an exodus of retail stores due to theft. Employees report witnessing individuals actively "shoveling" goods into bags before fleeing.

To combat shoplifting, several products, including shampoo, deodorant, toothbrushes, and some foods, are now kept behind barriers that require staff to open. However, other goods, such as trays of lipstick and nail polishes, continue to be stolen daily. This trend has fueled concerns that the store could be the next to leave San Francisco's rapidly emptying downtown area.

A worker at the Metreon shopping mall near San Francisco's Union Square told the San Francisco Standard, "Every 10 minutes, you see it. Look in some corner of the store, and you'll see people shoveling stuff into a bag - food, cosmetics."