A judge on Wednesday ordered the release of a suspect arrested at San Francisco's Embarcadero BART station in a confrontation with police that caused BART police to launch an excessive force investigation.
Michael Smith, 22, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to six charges of misdemeanor battery on a police officer and one charge of misdemeanor resisting arrest in connection with the incident Friday, which was captured on two videos circulating on social media.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Brendan Conroy ordered Smith, who has been in custody since Friday with bail set at $180,000, released with supervision. He is scheduled to stand trial on Aug. 19.
The videos, posted by witnesses to the incident, show BART police officers struggling with a man and one officer punching the man's head while he was pinned on his stomach. A woman stands nearby, detained with her hands in zip ties.
Public Defender Jeff Adachi said Smith was traveling on BART to a doctor's appointment with his girlfriend, who is pregnant, when a man on the train began yelling at her, telling her she smelled bad, to move away, and calling her derogatory names.
Smith told the man to stop talking to his girlfriend like that and then moved away, but was greeted by armed police when he stepped off the train, Adachi said.
He later learned a caller had falsely reported that he had a gun, according to Adachi.
"We are extremely concerned about this case, it appears that the officers assumed Mr. Smith was guilty based on an uncorroborated report," Adachi said, saying the case raises concerns about racial profiling by police.
"They treated him like he was a terrorist and took him down immediately," he said.
Prosecutors said Wednesday they reviewed body camera footage from officers at the scene before charging Smith.
"Our decision was made based on all the evidence," district attorney's office spokesman Alex Bastian said. "Our office was also concerned when we first saw the videos online."
Prosecutors argued in court that Smith posed a danger to the community because of prior convictions for threats, battery and disturbing the peace, and noted that he was on probation in two other counties.
Jacqueline Smith, Smith's aunt, said outside of court that Smith was "very caring and nurturing."
She said that she found it difficult to watch the video of the arrest.
"I'm really happy and thankful that the people at the BART station intervened," she said. "They couldn't physically, but at least they said things and my kid's still here."
BART officials have said the officers were responding to reports of a "possible armed robbery" at 12:52 p.m. that included a detailed description of the suspect.
BART police have launched an internal investigation into whether excessive force was used in the arrest. They allege that Smith physically resisted when officers tried to detain him, kicking one officer in the head and throat, biting another and spitting on a third.
One of the officers suffered a shoulder injury during the arrest and missed two days of work, according to BART officials. He has returned to work on light duty.
BART police have said that they did not seek a robbery charge because the original victim later told them that during a robbery the suspect had allegedly threatened to rob him but never brandished a weapon.