Many see race as central to BART killing

Most US residents have probably heard about this incident by now. But we haven’t had a discussion about it, and perhaps should.

Grant was killed by a BART police officer early New Year’s Day after he and several other young men had been detained in the Fruitvale Station after an altercation. Grant, unarmed, was face down on the ground when Officer Johannes Mehserle, who is white, fired a fatal shot into his back.

Police are investigating the shooting, and a decision from the Alameda County district attorney’s office on whether Mehserle will be charged is expected within two weeks. Mehserle resigned after the shooting and has not made a statement.

The case has elicited a strong reaction, especially among African Americans, who long have said they frequently are stopped, handcuffed, beaten - and even shot - because of their race.

Grant’s attorney believes race played a role in how he and the other young men were treated by the BART police.

“I don’t think the officer shot the gun because Oscar was black, but I think the way he approached the situation in an aggressive way was based on race,” said attorney John Burris, who is representing Grant’s family in their claim against BART. “If they were white, the officer might have asked them what was going on, rather than throw them in handcuffs.”

Mark Harrison, a police procedure consultant who has testified in use-of-force cases, said he, too, thinks the situation at the BART station escalated because of race.

There are many videos which capture the shooting, but perhaps the clearest one can be found by Googling these words:
indymedia oscar grant video

The video should be the first link, which is hosted by
I am not linking to the video in part because several witnesses use profanity, but you should also bear in mind that a man is killed on screen.

The shooting occurs roughly at 1 minute 25 seconds.

State Attorney General Jerry Brown designated a key prosecutor from his office who will closely monitor the investigation of the killing of an unarmed man by a BART police officer.

District Attorney Tom Orloff said Thursday that he will decide within two weeks whether to file criminal charges against Mehserle. He made the announcement during a news conference at Oakland City Hall where Mayor Ron Dellums announced that the Oakland Police Department will join with Orloff’s office in investigating the shooting. BART police Chief Gary Gee was there as well, voicing support for the city’s involvement.

Brown said he didn’t see a reason why it would take up to two weeks to file charges, if the investigation could be done faster without compromising the results. In addition, he said rioters who jump on police cars and declare war on downtown Oakland by kicking in storefront windows are violators of the law who should be prosecuted.

This happened more or less in my neck of the woods and I’ve been following this on KTVU, the Oakland channel. Yes, I think it was based on race. I also think, given the way things work, that the guy will get off. This sounds cynical, but I’ve seen it far too many times.

The Bay Area likes to think it’s diverse, but I tend to think it’s only for diverse kinds of white people. There’s a lot of racism under the surface around here and every now and again, it explodes.

Which makes me wonder, if it could happen in the Bay Area, couldn’t it happen anywhere?

I’m still shaken by the video. This incident really unsettles me.

Yes, the video is really frightening. The cop who shot the man resigned from the police force rather than go through the internal investigation and answer questions. There is no accountability any more.

Although the family of the man who was killed was planning a lawsuit, it won’t bring him back to life… so that isn’t much accountability.

However, the District Attorney is taking the next couple weeks to decide whether or not to file charges against the BART cop. There is still a chance of some accountability.

The BART investigation of the incident came up inconclusive.

A white former transit police officer was charged with murder Wednesday in the New Year’s Day shooting death of a young unarmed black man that provoked a week of public outrage and occasionally violent protest.

The former officer, Johannes Mehserle, surrendered Tuesday evening in Lake Tahoe, Nev., where it appeared he had gone to avoid community anger and the scrutiny of the news media. He was returned to California on Wednesday by the Oakland police.

District Attorney Tom Orloff of Alameda County said Mr. Mehserle, 27, had refused to speak to Oakland police or transit police investigators and was charged with murder “because at this point I feel the evidence indicates an unlawful killing done by an intentional act.”

Actually, I think this was a horrible horrible accident. If you look closely at the tape, it’s clear he’s in total shock when he realizes he’d shot the young man. It looks as if he went for his taser and pulled his service revolver instead. From what I understand, he was in his first couple of weeks of being allowed to carry a gun. I think this is more negligent homicide that premeditated murder.

Now, I have no doubt that if this were not a person of color on the ground handcuffed that he would not have been reaching for his taser so this whole situation would have been avoided!

That is exactly what I heard happened. The BART police carry their tasers and guns on the same side (a very stupid thing to do) and it seems like he meant to go for the taser. That is not murder…though it is at the least criminally negligent homicide.

In Christ,

Every time a black person is shot, it is not just because they are black. Watch the video and you’ll see that the officer is shocked after he shoots. My guess is that he meant to use his taser and pulled out his gun by mistake (I have heard that the BART police were carrying tasers on the same side as guns, which is stupid). It is terrible that this young man was killed, but it does not seem to be because he was black and the cops are all just out to kill black people.

In Christ,

BART’s new police review committee, created in response to Grant’s shooting, held a meeting with African-American community leaders. Everyone from the NAACP to clergy members and the business community attended, but not everyone left satisfied.

“We’re upset, we feel that instead of looking at an officer, they should be looking at officers,” the Reverend J. Alfred Smith Sr. said.

BART Police Chief Gary Gee said all seven officers on the platform during the shooting have been placed on administrative leave, but BART investigators have not yet interviewed them about possible excessive force.

BART General Manager Dorothy Dugger said it is up to the Alameda County district attorney to decide whether to file criminal charges, but the he has said he does not plan to charge anyone other than Mesherle, who was charged with murder.

BART Director Carole Ward Allen is now calling for an independent, outside group to launch an investigation.

“I don’t want BART to investigate itself because that’s not transparency,” Allen said.

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