Two California transit security officers have been suspended as La Mesa Police investigate a “disturbing” video that shows them tackling, grabbing and punching a shirtless man on board a moving trolley.
The Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) handed the footage from its public camera over the police to determine if the hired Transit Systems Security (TSS) officers used excessive force in the Aug. 18 incident. TSS is under contract to provide armed security officers for MTS.
The altercation started when the shirtless man – whose identity has not been released— boarded the MTS trolley at the Grossmont Trolley Station. In the ten-minute MTS video, the TSS officers are seen verbally confronting the man, though it is unclear what they were saying.
Suddenly, both officers lunge at him. They wrestle with him, standing on seats for better access and throwing the victim to the other side of the trolley as it moves through La Mesa.
The video then shows the officers pulling out their batons and striking the man over and over.
Six minutes later, when the trolley has pulled up to the 70th Street Trolley Station, the two men leave the victim sitting on a seat to order everyone else off the trolley car.
They talk with the man for another minute or so and wrestle with him again. Finally, a third officer comes on board to help escort the man out.
The victim was later taken to the hospital for minor injuries.
“The video depicting the incident is disturbing and not reflective of TSS culture,” said TSS Chief Executive Officer Steve Jones in a news release. “Our top priority is to ensure that MTS passengers enjoy a safe and secure public transportation experience. We are investigating this incident thoroughly and if any violation of TSS policy and procedures are found to have occurred, swift and appropriate personnel action will be taken.”
MTS officials say after an initial review, they referred the issue to the La Mesa Police Department, which will work with the District Attorney’s Office to determine if criminal charges will be filed.
Both MTS and TSS launched internal investigations to be completed next week. At that point, they will decide if disciplinary action – which could include termination – will be taken.
“It appears at this time that the actions taken by the security officers were unacceptable,” said Paul Jablonski, chief executive officer of MTS, in a statement. “MTS and TSS do not tolerate the inappropriate use of force by its employees or those of its contractors.”
The officers, whose names have not been released, will be suspended until the end of the police investigation.
La Mesa Police are asking anyone who saw the fight, recorded video of it or took pictures to call Lt. Matt Nicholass at 619-667-7512.