(I went back and forth on whether to link to the video of the shooting. I did. But lots of trigger warnings apply. It’s incredibly upsetting – if you can watch this video and not be upset, I’m not sure we can be friends. It will stay with you. It will bury deep inside and it won’t let go. This is real. This is video of an unarmed man being shot point blank from behind while lying down on the ground. This was a human being. And he is dead. That’s my trigger warning).
Ever since I saw the video of Oscar Grant being shot on a BART platform by a BART officer on New Years’ Eve, I can’t get the image out of my mind. He wasn’t armed. He wasn’t resisting. He was barely even talking. He was sitting next to his best friend. He was a son, a father, and a young black man. He was shot in the chest. He bled to death. He was 22.
Johannes Mehserle, the BART officer, said he saw Grant reach for his pocket. He says he mistook his taser for a gun.
Mehserle was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter about an hour ago (I started writing this around 8pm). It’s the lightest punishment he could have gotten. Supposedly the sentence is somewhere between probation and 6 years, maybe longer since he involuntary killed Grant with his gun. Let’s all just remember that Michael Vick got three years for dog fighting. The sentencing will take place on August 6th.
According to oaklandlocal.com, here is what the sentencing for Mehserle could bring:
Mehserle’s sentencing will be presided over by Judge Robert Perry, who oversaw the murder trial in Los Angeles. At that hearing, Perry will decide whether to grant Mehserle probation.
In the unlikely event that happens, Mehserle could go to county jail for one year or even be released immediately.
If Perry denies Mehserle probation, the ex-BART officer will be sent to state prison. In that case, Mehserle will be sentenced for two crimes – involuntary manslaughter and personal use of a firearm.
The sentencing guidelines for involuntary manslaughter are two, three, or four years.
The guidelines for personal use of a firearm charge are three, four, or ten years.
So, if Mehserle is denied probation he will spend between five and 14 years in California state prison.
Here are shots of the main national news sites at 8:30pm EST, 1.5 hours after the verdict was read. So, what does the national news care about right now? Or maybe, what does the national news think we care right now? (Let’s start with the ones that are good and move to the shitty ones, okay?):
As you can see, this is the SECOND image that appeared on CBS’ site, but at least the story wasn’t lost.
Mehserle’s picture is at least the second biggest picture and, relative to that, Grant’s the second largest story.
Russian spies are the biggest FOX story, with Mehserle’s conviction squeezed in between the liberal media’s bias towards not reporting on bad black people and a court saying the US can’t stop oil companies from drilling in US ocean.
Lebron James’ NBA decision is a big deal, ya’ll! The Russians get a picture, as does some fish’s head. Oh, there’s Grant. In the lower left, tucked in there nicely. Nothing too flashy.
And finally, the winner for shittiest coverage of Oscar Grant trial verdict goes to ABC News Online!
Pretty Russian red-headed spy. How did she end up with such a big story? There’s that Lebron again (news just broke: He’s going to Miami.) I actually spot him twice on this page. And a laughing Mel Gibson down there on the left with the woman he beat up. I find that “Diane’s Question of the Day” draws my eye even more than the “Oakland Transit Shooting Verdict”. That’s a fail ABC. A total and complete FAIL.
And now the inevitable. The black people are angry. Riots!
“Riots.” Oh, what a word. It is almost always reserved for the poor or the black or the minority, just the way “looting” is (I think we all remember post-Katrina media coverage).
Maybe the real question should be why these people feel like they have to riot to be heard. It’s never about causes, only consequences. When a black woman in Seattle resists a white male police officer’s attempts to arrest her for jaywalking, we don’t ask why, we simply tell her to behave and let the officer do his job (I mean, he wouldn’t have had to punch her in the face if she had just done what he wanted, right? Because punching her in the face makes so much sense and was totally appropriate). Stop resisting, start listening. If only the black people would do what the police wanted. Well, Oscar Grant did what the BART officer wanted and he’s still dead. It’s easy to sit in our suburban homes, on our comfortable couches, in our safe neighbors, surrounded by our white friends and judge black Americans like we have some kind of idea of what it means to truly fear a police officer. What happens when the people in your society that are supposed to protect you are just as much a threat to your well-being as everyone else? I’m so sad right now. I’m so sad.
Like I often do, I will let Shakesville explain this better than I ever could (this is in response to the jaywalking Seattle woman who an officer punched in the face for resisting arrest):
The conventional wisdom will almost certainly be that he “snapped,” that he didn’t have an inherently bad nature as a cop but did a bad thing because of those young women’s resistance.
The suggestion that they resisted because they sensed the very nature that resulted in the violence against them will be dismissed as absurd.
Now, back to Oscar Grant specifically. There’s a great article written about a week ago about the different levels of guilt Mehserle’s jury had to decide between. But what I like best is the end and I quote it now:
But what will always be a matter of contention in any police brutality case, and certainly in this one, is whether the use of force was appropriate for the actual level of threat Grant and his friends posed to the BART cops. If the jury buys the theory that Mehserle intended to pull only his Taser on Grant, does that mean he was within the law when he shot an unarmed man?
That’s a tougher legal question than it is a moral one. Because what jurors have also learned during this trial is that police officers have total discretion as to what tool they need to subdue suspects. Moreover, they are allowed to use any kind of force that corresponds to the level of threat they perceive they’re under. So it’s difficult to prove cops have been guilty of excessive force and intentional abuse; the only defense a cop needs is that he or she fears life-threatening danger. Mehserle says he feared such danger that night.
When I spoke last week with Jack Bryson, whose son Jackie was handcuffed and kneeling next to Grant on the BART platform, Bryson was furious about the trial testimony. “From the very beginning, we have seen total fabrication from every officer who has taken the stand,” Bryson told me. He was confident that the prosecution would reveal these cracks in the cops’ testimony, but when I asked him if he thought Mehserle would be convicted of murder, Bryson paused. “History is not on our side,” he replied.
But I end with this tweet. My favorite of the night so far (though there have been a lot of amazing things said in 140 or less characters):
RIP Oscar Grant.