In November of last year, 21-year-old Damian Barnes headed into Dupont Circle Station to get on a train back home after finishing his Sunday morning shift at work. WTTG Fox 5 News reports that the Washington, D.C. man had a dollar, which he added to his “SmarTrip” card, but realized he was just one nickel short of being able to afford his ride home. So, Mr. Barnes started to ask people if they had a spare nickel. That act led to a questionable response by an unnamed Metro Transit police officer.
Barnes told WTTG, “I kind of go toward the turnstile to ask a couple of people. Knowing that it’s only five cents, I’m quite embarrassed to even ask. So I’m keeping my distance away from people, [asking] ‘Do you think maybe you can spare a quarter or five cents, so I can get home?’” He wasn’t getting any help, and stopped to scroll through his contacts on his phone to see if there was someone who could assist him. Then an officer approached.
WTTG reports that in the Metro Transit police officer’s report, Barnes was ordered to leave and that the office attempted to escort him out by the arm. It also says that Barnes then took a combative stance. One glance at the security camera footage the station acquired doesn’t back up those claims.
The officer sprayed Barnes in the face and then took him down to the ground. He was taken to jail after having the chemical spray washed out of his eyes and a hospital evaluation. He was charged with panhandling and unlawful entry. Both charges were dropped during a later court date.
Barnes says that he wasn’t told that panhandling was against the rules in the station, and had it been explained to him, he would have left immediately. But, the officer never said it, he just kept ordering him to leave. Metro has not commented. Barnes is considering a lawsuit.
More info: WTTG