Sacramento Beefs up Rail Security after Fatal Shooting

Apr. 25--In the wake of a weekend fatal shooting at the 47th Avenue light-rail station, Sacramento Regional Transit officials said they are shifting more officers to the south light-rail line, if only to ease rider fears.

Sacramento city police said Monday the crime is under investigation, but no arrests are imminent. "We don't have anything new," police spokesman Sgt. Chris Taylor said Monday afternoon.

Byron Warner, 37, of Sacramento was confronted by four or five men in their early 20s or late teens as he waited for a train at 9:54 p.m. Saturday, police said. One of them shot Warner several times in the chest.

Two Regional Transit cameras recorded images that officials said may be the assailants. The cameras did not capture the shooting but showed several men leaving the scene moments later, RT spokesman Mike Wiley said. Police said the suspects ran away eastbound on 47th Avenue.

One of the cameras was mounted on a light-rail train that arrived in the station immediately after the shooting, Wiley said, and another is at the rail crossing on 47th Avenue. A swiveling camera to monitor the station is scheduled to be installed later this year.

The 47th Street station was the scene of a group fight last year involving what one witness described as up to 50 young people. Also, an argument on board a train at that station led to the stabbing of an 18-year-old woman a year ago. The assailant was arrested by a station guard.

The Saturday shooting increased concern among some light-rail riders who said they sometimes feel uneasy at night at some spots on the system.

"The word I'd use is apprehensive, especially at night," said rider Bill Bowen, who on some nights uses the City College light-rail station, one stop north of 47th Street.

Bowen said he was approached at the City College station recently by someone attempting to sell him drugs. Another time, at the 16th Street station, he was knocked over by two young men engaged in a fistfight.

Roger Dickinson, chairman of the RT board, called the shooting despicable and a tragedy but said it doesn't mean light-rail stations are inherently dangerous.

"I don't think that people are at greater risk by being at a light-rail stop than they are at any of hundreds of other places in Sacramento," Dickinson said.

Nevertheless, RT has been increasing security at light-rail stations and on trains in recent years, officials said.

Last month, officers raided the Mather/Mills station in Rancho Cordova and arrested 15 people, including eight juveniles, on charges of selling rock cocaine to undercover officers.

All light-rail trains now have interior and exterior cameras. Ten light-rail stations are surveyed by cameras that can be monitored in real time from RT facilities. Those include the Meadowview, Florin and Broadway stations on the south line.

The 47th Avenue station is among a group of stations to be equipped with swiveling cameras by the end of this year. RT General Manager Bev Scott said all light-rail stations should have cameras by April 2007.

However, most stations do not have a security guard on duty at all times in the evening and night, RT's Wiley said.

RT employs a private security firm whose guards ride light-rail trains and check stations as they go, officials said. RT also has a 34-member police force made up of officers from the Sacramento police and county Sheriff's Department. That is an increase from 24 officers three years ago. At the same time, the length of the RT rail system and number of stations also have grown.

Despite the efforts to increase security, RT officials say they can't do it all.

"Our objective would be to try to do as much as reasonably possible to make every rider not only actually safe, but feel safe," Dickinson said. "At the same time, there are financial and practical limits regarding what we can do to ensure personal safety."

The camera system being installed will cost $1.5 million, officials said.

[Sacramento Bee, The (CA) (KRT) -- 04/26/06]