DUBLIN -- As reports about what might have prompted a BART police officer to fatally shoot a colleague surfaced, a spokesman for the agency leading the investigation branded them as "inaccurate" but refused to release any details Saturday.
Reports citing anonymous sources close to the investigation by KRON Channel 4 and the San Francisco Chronicle indicated that Sgt. Tom Smith, 42, was shot by a startled colleague when Smith exited a different door from the one he entered while searching the Dublin apartment. Both reports focused on the circular layout of the apartment, particularly the dual entrances to the bathroom, as a factor in the shooting.
The stories lay out an "inaccurate" picture of what occurred when Smith was shot and killed after a lone round passed through a small gap in the bulletproof vest he was wearing, said Alameda County Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. J.D. Nelson.
"First of all, a lot of news agencies are putting the cart before the horse in regards to the BART shooting, and information they are putting out is inaccurate," Nelson said when contacted about the KRON report. Investigators for Dublin police, a division of the Sheriff's Office, are probing the officer-involved shooting.
"It's not fair to the BART police, and it's especially not fair to the families of those affected," said Nelson, who later dismissed the Chronicle report as also inaccurate.
KRON Channel 4 video journalist Haaziq Madyun interviewed a man who claims he is a former BART police officer and agreed to give the station an "exclusive" report if they masked his identity and his voice.
Standing on grass, seemingly outside the Park Sierra apartment complex at 6450 Dougherty Road where the shooting occurred, a shadowy figure described by KRON as "close to the investigation" told his version of what happened in the apartment shortly after 2 p.m. Tuesday. The source never reveals his name, when he supposedly worked for BART or for how long, or where he received the purported details about the tragedy.
He said Smith began inspecting rooms of the apartment while other officers, including the one identified by sources as the shooter, Officer Michael Maes, stayed back near the doorway.
Smith entered a bedroom, then a bathroom that had doors on each side, often referred to as a "Jack and Jill" style setup, the source claims. As Smith exited the opposite side of the bathroom from where he entered, one of the officers saw a handgun protruding through the wall and fired, the source claims.
Smith was shot, officers rendered aid, and he was rushed to Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, where he later died.
KRON's source did not say whether he believed the shooter mistook Smith for a threat because he reportedly exited a different door from the one he entered. He said he was going public with his story to highlight the need for better training of BART officers.
The San Francisco Chronicle, citing sources close to the investigation, reported Saturday that Maes fired after momentarily regarding Smith as an armed suspect. "When the investigation is complete, we will present our findings to the BART police, and to the media and to the public," Nelson said. "And at that time, we will have a complete and accurate report of what happened that day. But until then, I'm going to let the Dublin police investigators do their job in compiling the necessary information to complete this report."
Nelson said seven BART officers and a Dublin police officer converged on a BART robbery suspect's apartment on Dougherty Road. They knocked twice on the door, but no one answered. They were aware that the suspect was already in custody and were searching the apartment for evidence.
Finding the door unlocked, five BART officers, including Smith, stepped in. All five officers were wearing bulletproof vests, investigators have said; all were in plain clothes, not uniforms.
Not knowing whether anyone was inside the apartment, officers followed protocol and entered with their guns drawn, Nelson said. Investigators have not disclosed how the shooting unfolded -- particularly whether the other officer mistook Smith for a threat or whether his handgun went off accidentally.
Maes' attorney, David Mastagni, said his client has complied with every aspect of the ongoing investigation into Tuesday's shooting. Mastagni declined to comment on the specifics of the case. Smith will be laid to rest Wednesday.