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BART Police Arrest Train Assault Suspect

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – A man wanted in two recent attacks that occurred on BART trains was arrested Monday in downtown Oakland, authorities said.

BART police said 42-year-old Mario Christopher Washington of Berkeley had been booked into jail on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and battery charges.

BART assault suspect Mario Christopher Washington
BART assault suspect Mario Christopher Washington (Alameda County Sheriff's Office)

Washington -- whose photo was released earlier on Monday -- was spotted by an Oakland fire inspector who flagged down a patrol car and also aided in capture of the suspect. The Berkeley man was taken into custody without incident at 9th and Broadway around 9 a.m.

"It was a great collaborative effort between our media partners and just people watching the news," said BART police deputy chief Ed Alvarez. "Within 2 1/2 hours (after releasing the photos) we had someone in the city of Oakland recognize him and call in the police."

According to police, on Thursday at 7:31 p.m., a male victim was seated on a train at the Bay Fair station in San Leandro when Washington allegedly hit him in the head with an unknown metal object.

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Washington also allegedly punched and kicked the victim, then fled the train and ran out of the station, police said.

The victim and witnesses told police that the attack was unprovoked. Police were unable to locate the suspect.

The victim suffered a laceration to his head and was taken to a hospital with injuries that were not considered life threatening.

On Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Washington allegedly was on a San Francisco-bound train approaching the Embarcadero Station.

He allegedly approached a man on the train and struck him twice in the face with a closed fist, then fled the scene, police said.

The victim, who did not know the suspect, suffered injuries that were not considered life threatening and received medical treatment at the scene, police said.

Cameras captured images of Washington, who is described as a black man standing 6 feet tall with a muscular build. During the first attack on Thursday, Washington was allegedly wearing a gray shirt, tan shorts and black shoes, police said.

Anyone with information about the suspect is asked to call BART police at (510) 464-7020.

The crimes connected to Washington are just two of what has been an increasing number of incidents on BART trains and stations this year.

If it seems like random thefts and assaults on BART are happening more often, it's because they are.

On Monday, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that calls for help on BART are up 29 percent and felony arrests are down by 23 percent compared to last year.

The biggest jumps were in three types of crime. There have been six reports of rape this year compared to one last year. 138 robberies have been reported so far in 2017 compared to 102 last year.

And there have been 264 assault called in during the first seven months of 2017, compared to 197 this time in 2016.

BART Board of Directors member Debra Allen is not surprised at the increase in crime.

"We're seeing increasing crime throughout our cities; all of the cities that our transit systems runs through as well," said Allen.

There are 40 vacancies in the BART police department, but under staffing isn't the only problem. The department is run by the chief, the general manager, the Citizens Review Board and Office of the Independent Police Auditor.

"The result of that over-regulation is that we now have BART police manual, policy manual that is 800 pages long," explained Allen.

Allen said she hears from police about the sheer number of rules and how it impacts their willingness to act.

"They're just reluctant to cross over a line that might violate a policy," said Allen. "That might lead to some type of personnel reprimand that stays with them for their career."

TM and © Copyright 2017 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

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