Student says guards beat him


The City College trolley station at Park Boulevard is the second busiest in the transit system. Photo credit: Joe Kendall

A City College student plans to file a complaint against the trolley system, accusing its security officers of slamming him to the ground and deliberately injuring him last month.

His story is one of two recent accounts shared by students who question the tactics used by security officers.

The trolleys are operated by the Metropolitan Transit Service, a publicly funded organization. MTS subcontracts security to Universal Protection Services, a private firm.

According to Rob Schupp, director of Marketing and Communications for the MTS, the San Diego trolley system hosts 35 million riders a year, and averages 56 complaints per year, 24 of which are about excessive force from security.

Although the total number of City College students riding the trolley is not known, the City College station is the second busiest on the system, with an average 6,662 people boarding or exiting there. MTS has sold 2,365 semester passes to the San Diego Community College District, which includes City College, he added.

Emanuel Wimer, 24, a student at City College, is a trolley rider. He said he plans to file a complaint against MTS after an encounter with its security officers last month.

Around 6 a.m. Feb. 24 after crossing into the U.S. from Tijuana after some weekend shopping, Wimer had a casual conversation with a female Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent.

In this conversation, she said that illegal immigrants do not pay taxes and Wimer attempted to dissuade her of that view.

After the conversation, he stopped to have a cigarette outside of the San Ysidro Transit Center, where he intended to board a trolley going north.

Wimer said an MTS security officer then stopped him, asked him if he was comfortable and requested he put out his cigarette.

Wimer said he turned to look for a trash can and the officer then abruptly gripped his head, handcuffed him, sat him on a bench, then put him an MTS vehicle.

Sobeida Diego, 27, who studies nursing at City, said she saw what happened next.

After being removed from the MTS vehicle, she said, Wimer started yelling for someone to call the police. She said five officers threw him to the ground and yelled at him, “stop resisting!”

She said the officers “were beating on him.”

“The person being detained was laughing,” she said, “he was not resisting.”

She said that the officers, which included an ICE agent, appeared enraged by the laughter. One of the officers was deliberately putting all his weight directly on Wimer’s wrists, she said.

Diego was part of a small crowd of passersby who were attempting to convince the officers to let Wimer go.

She said one of the officers told the crowd to move along, saying, “You don’t want to get involved, you don’t want to go to jail.”

An armed Metropolitan Transit Service security guard on duty outside the City College station. Joe Kendall, City Times Photo credit: Joe Kendall


When San Diego police officers arrived, the security officers told them that Wimer had tried to punch an officer.

The police officers took him to a station, where he waited for 16 hours before being released to go to a hospital, he said. There, he received treatment for a strained wrist and chest contusion.

He said that his wrists were strained from the officer deliberately putting his weight onto them. And that the chest contusion occurred when he was slammed against an MTS vehicle.

Wimer was cited for smoking within 25 feet of a trolley station, which is banned, non-compliance and jaywalking.

He is also facing an assault charge for allegedly attempting to punch a security guard. A hearing on that charge is on the April 10.

Diego, the eyewitness, said no one she spoke with at the scene saw Wimer attempt to punch a security guard.

Zane Hunker, 24, a graphic design student at City College and a student senator with the Associated Student Government, also plans a complaint against MTS.

Hunker said he was riding the Blue Line trolley, near Park and Market, on the afternoon of March 6 on his way to school. An MTS security asked to see his pass, which he produced, then requested to see his ID, presumably to demonstrate that the pass was not stolen.

Ordinarily, security is not allowed to ask the passengers for ID but Zane has a pass that indicates that he has a disability, Asperger’s Syndrome. Zane said he feels that this practice invades his privacy and pushes the burden of enforcement onto the consumer. He plans to file a complaint against the MTS.

These two stories come on the heels of another incident that occurred in September. As reported by 10News, a man with a registered therapy dog was being questioned by MTS security at the City College station. He pulled out a note pad to take down the officers’ badge numbers and was tackled by the them to the ground.

The incident was filmed on a cell phone by a City College student, who said the man was responding sarcastically to the officers’ questions just before the he was taken down.

The man was eventually ccused him of smoking on the station, which was not visible on the video.

As reported by KPBS, San Diego has one of the only transit systems in the U.S. that hires private security officers instead of using local police. MTS pays $9 million a year to Universal Protection Services, which provides the officers.

All guards are required to have a California Guard Card. That certification, guaranties 40 hours of training over a six-month period and a background check. Few are CPR-certified or have received fire arms training, as reported by KPBS.