Tuesday, January 6, 2009

New Year Killing on BART - Video Evidence Galore

I'm still quite shell-shocked writing this. In the early AM of New Years, police BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit - our version of the metro), shot a young black man, Oscar Grant, in the back while he was on the floor faced down and hand-cuffed from behind. The officers in attendance were all white except for one alleged Latino brother who roughed Grant up before a white officer, Johannes Mehserle, pulled the trigger.

Most disturbing of all is that multiple eye-witnesses said Grant complied with officers and at one point, out of desperation, pleaded repeatedly, "Please don't shoot, I have a four-year-old daughter." Officers took seven seconds to react after the shot and it's unclear what was the motivation. Some speculate Mehserle mistaken his gun for a taser. Though we still do not know if he carried a taser at all. Even had he used a taser, it would still have been an unprovoked act of violence.

Other eye-witnesses overheard the officers ordering their colleagues to remove the hand-cuffs when they thought media was arriving. This is Rodney King times ten (see pix to left). Already there has been three phone videos of the incident, one that was given to the local Oakland TV station, KTVU, one to the Grant family lawyer, and one confiscated by BART police. Coming back from a New Years celebration, most likely there exists many more cell phone and camera vids of the incident.

I'm shocked and disappointed in our so-called justice system. Watch the killer get off. Just watch. Point being, without the abundance of vid technology, this incident could have been covered up much easier. It would have been a case of we said/they said. Mehserle has not been detained and as of today, he's still not been interviewed. What eff up ness is that? Oaklanese are not taking this lying down and have organized protests to show their outrage.

Additionally, Grant's mother and his baby momma filed a $25-million wrongful death claim against BART. This reminds me of the crazy wrongful shooting of Cau Thi Bich, an un-armed, petite, young Vietnamese mother of two, who was shot by a white cop in her own kitchen with her young boys in the next room. The family got nearly 2 million in a "wrongful killing" case and forced the increased use of tasers instead of guns.

Word of caution, be very afraid if you're a black man in Oakland, or anywhere else for that matter. You might as well have a target tattooed to your head. So, tell me what you think.

Update January 13:
On January 11, 2009, Johannes Mehserle, was finally arrested and charged with murder in the killing of Oscar Grant. It would be the first time in California history where an officer on duty was charged with such a crime. A demonstration took place Wednesday afternoon January 12, 2009 and as with the first one, splinter groups went off and destroyed property in downtown Oakland. Riot police were present which probably helped saved many of the businesses in that area from being looted or vandalized, but not all were spared. 18 rioters were arrested verses the 105 at the previous riot.

I personally think our justice system is broken. Mehserle should have been detained from the second the shooting happened. His fellow officers just standing by to watch without restraining him was a huge mistake and they too should be liable for the killing. In fact, I am shocked to hear (though I know I shouldn't be) that before Mehserle no other officer on duty was charge with wrongful killings. Cops are NOT above the law. They are there to protect us and if they are a menace to society, they need to be removed from the force and charged with crimes they committed.

Predictably enough, the defense claims there's evidence to say it was a justified shooting. Oh, lord, what madness will they come up with now? Let this not be another Dan "twinky defense" White who shot both the first openly gay supervisor, Milk, and San Francisco Mayer, Moscone, but got barely two years of jail time. He was even allowed back to San Francisco once out. Just because one looks like what our society has constructed as "innocent, all American boy next door," it does not mean one's incapable of being a murderer. Same goes with young black men not all being criminals!

What do you think?

Update January 8:
January 7th, just a week after the slaying, a peaceful demonstration took place at the Fruitvale BART station (scene of crime). Shortly after, splinter groups of about 200 people moved onto downtown Oakland where some broke store windows, smashed cars and started small fire. 105 were arrested and 3 later prosecuted.

As for the killer, Mehserle. Immediately after shooting Grant he found council and pleaded the 5th. Also on January 7th he resigned from office. He still has not been detained. Ah, justice.



Cathy B said...

I've really been following this in the news. It really is an unfortunate situation. I'm curious to know how the environment and dynamics of riding the BART in Oakland is like. I'm also disappointed in the violent/physical riots that have taken place in Oakland...they are really damaging local business and the image of Oakland in mainstream USA.

kieulinh said...

I only rode on BART the day after the first riot so it's hard to say what is the general feeling. I personally just wanted to get where I needed to go on time and prayed protests would not coincide with my BART usage.

Though I agree it's wrong to destroy property, I do feel a sense of hopelessness and injustice about what happened with the shooting. It's not just the killing but decades and centuries of people feeling unsafe around so-called police. The rage and rioting, my best guess, is the manifestation of latent oppression. Anyway, it's just slightly bizarre to have helicopters flying over Oakland all the time. It's not quite a war zone, but can feel like it sometimes.