Murder in cold blood by Todd Chretien + Bart Police Shoot Oscar Grant

Dandelion Salad

Updated: replaced video

Todd Chretien reports on the outpouring of anger after Oakland police killed an unarmed man on the platform of a transit station.
January 7, 2009

ON NEW Year’s Eve, as scores of horrified people looked on, Oakland transit police forced 22-year-old Oscar Grant to the ground, kneeled on his head and then shot him in the back.

Grant, an African American father of a 4-year-old daughter and an Oakland grocery story worker, died several hours later. The bullet entered his back, ricocheted off the concrete floor and punctured his lungs.

Police attempted to confiscate cell phone videos taken by Bay Area Rapid Transit passengers and initially claimed that security cameras didn’t record the incident. However, in the last two days, they have been forced to admit that the security cameras did capture the assault.

Additionally, one especially graphic video taken by a passenger was released by the Bay Area television station KTVU. It shows an unarmed and unresisting Grant, lying face down, shot at point-blank range by an officer as his horrified friends and onlookers watch.

Although police and BART authorities still refuse to give the name of the officer who shot and killed Grant, KTVU obtained a copy of the civil lawsuit filed by Grant’s family, which names officer Johannes Mehserle as the shooter.

Grant “was unarmed and offered no physical resistance to BART police officers,” according to the claim filed by attorney John Burris. According to KTVU’s summary of the lawsuit:

Grant fell to his knees and put his hands up “in an effort to demonstrate that he was submitting to the Latino officer’s thuggish display of authority.”

But the officer dug his knee into Grant’s back, causing Grant to “yell out in agony,” the claim states.

Grant feared for his life and “made a valiant effort to de-escalate the situation by appealing to the officer’s sense of humanity by telling the officer that he had a 4-year-old daughter” and asking the officer not to use a Taser gun on him, according to the claim.

The claim alleges that Mehserle, who was standing nearby, kneeled down and restrained Grant’s hands, then “inexplicably” stood up, drew his firearm and pointed it directly at Grant’s back.

The claim states, “Without so much as flinching, Officer Mehserle stood over Mr. Grant and mercilessly fired his weapon, mortally wounding Mr. Grant with a single gunshot wound to the back.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THE NEW Year’s killing has provoked a growing community response as the police account of the incident has fallen apart. Although Mehserle has yet to issue a statement, according to media accounts, police officials suggested to the press that he intended to use his Taser gun on Grant and claimed he might not have recognized the difference between the two weapons.

That assertion has been met with disbelief by anti-police brutality activists. Burris cast further doubt on the police account at a January 4 press conference:

It’s an outrageous set of facts. My sense is clear that this was an unjustifiable shooting. There were no movements, and he was not trying to overrun the police officer. A gun cannot discharge accidentally. You have to have your finger on the trigger.

When conduct like this occurs, there is a price to pay. Police have to be held accountable when they engage in this kind of unlawful conduct.

Following the killing, a spirited, spontaneous protest of 20 people took place outside BART Police headquarters on January 5. Grant’s family is holding a memorial for him in his hometown of Hayward, just south of Oakland, on January 7.

Activists are planning a rally to demand justice for Oscar Grant at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland later in the day, from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. The protest was called by concerned community members and is spreading quickly by word of mouth.

Police brutality is nothing new in Oakland. In the last few years, a string of police killings have angered residents, including last spring’s shooting death of 15-year-old José Luis Buenrostro-Gonzalez, which remains an open case, with no officers being accused of any wrongdoing.

“We have no intention of letting the cops off the hook,” said Dana Blanchard from the Campaign to End the Death Penalty. “The whole criminal injustice system is rotten, and we’re going to do everything we can to make sure Oscar Grant’s death shines a light on it.”


What you can do

Come a rally to demand justice for Oscar Grant at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland on January 7, starting at 3 p.m.

A video of the police shooting of Grant, taken by a commuter, has been posted online by anti-police brutality activists.

For more information or for notices of upcoming protests and organizing meetings, see the San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center Web site.




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8 thoughts on “Murder in cold blood by Todd Chretien + Bart Police Shoot Oscar Grant

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  4. When I first heard this story I was outraged like many others. I you tubed the video for answers. Then I sat down watched on video clipped. Studied the scene for the cops reaction and witnesses. Now I reviewed this over and over again for about an hour. It seems to me as every one is “ohhing ” tring to comprehend this unfortunate sorrowful event one thing stands out. Listen closely and watch the cops mouth. Shortly after shooting innocent Oscar Grant. He looks down and quickly up to his companion to say HOLY SH** … It seems as though he is shocked about this fatal transpiring. Kind of makes one wonder.

    • He may not have intended to use his gun, however, he did intend to use his taser (I’m supposing) and that needs to be questioned, why tase an unarmed person who is on the ground face down? That would be police abuse if he used the taser in that case. We need to retrain the police officers on when to use (and not use) tasers.

  5. when more than one officer is on the scene they each feel that they need to show more force than the other officer. They feel a power rush. total control, never a back step to anyone. if they are together and feel you have an {attitude} you will get a knee. in this case the officer felt the need to use his taser. He had just been trained as the others and after staying up for the last 48 hours with a new born, he grabbed his duty gun instead. After he shot Oscar, you can see his face turn white in instant disbelief. What a stupid mistake. if each station had private security and was handled by city cops the state could save lots of money. response time would be great instead of waiting 40 minutes for a cop to come from colma to market st station for example

  6. From a society that is rooted in violence, sees thousands of killing on tv yearly, supplies the world with arms it can be expected. That doesn’t make it right, and this an an outrage. Hopefully it will wake people up as to what is happening in the US.

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