BART Passenger Fakes Seizure to Stop Robbery; Police Release Photos of Would-Be Thief

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A BART passenger in San Francisco was handed a note that threatened her with death if she didn't hand over her belongings, but her quick thinking in response may have prevented the mugging.

She faked a seizure.

BART police released this photo of a woman believed to have tried to rob a passenger on a train on Sept. 16, 2017.

BART police released this photo of a woman believed to have tried to rob a passenger on a train on Sept. 16, 2017.

Now, police are looking for the would-be thief in the case, described as a woman in her 30s with "strawberry blonde" hair who was last seen pulling a black cart with wheels.

Oakland resident Julie Dragland told the San Francisco Chronicle her Bay Area Rapid Transit train was passing through San Francisco en route to the East Bay Saturday afternoon when someone behind her passed her a slip of paper.  In red ink, the message read, "There are 2 guns pointed at you now. If you want to live hand back your wallet + phone NOW + do not turn around and be discreet. Do not turn around until after you have left Civic Center + you will live."

"When I read the note, I started freaking out," Dragland, 32, told the newspaper Sunday. "I did not want to give up my stuff but I had no idea who was behind me."

When an attempt to mouth the words "help me" to a fellow passenger didn't work, Dragland slumped to the side, "shaking and crying" to get the attention of the other passengers. After people started coming to check on her, the woman got off at the next stop.

On Monday, BART police said video from the train corroborated the victim's account.

The would-be mugger was seated behind the victim, who was sitting by herself, police said in a news release. The thief could be seen in video reaching over the victim's shoulder, and that's when she may have dropped the note, police said.

When Dragland faked a "medical problem," the woman who dropped the note got up and exited at the Powell Street Station in downtown San Francisco.

"There is no indication from the video the suspect was armed with any weapons," the police news release said.

BART spent $1.42 million earlier this year to install working surveillance equipment after the Chronicle reported that 77 percent of cameras on the trains were decoys.

Police are now looking through more video from inside the train and at the Powell Street Station.