Friday, January 09, 2009

SF police goon videoed

New video shows BART officer shooting Hayward man in the back. The goon has now resigned and won't talk

A BART police officer struggling to handcuff a 22-year-old man, stood up over the facedown Hayward resident and fired a single shot into his back while a handful of officers watched, a video taken by a train passenger apparently shows. The attorney for the family of Oscar Grant III, fatally shot by an unidentified BART officer early New Year's Day, said Sunday he plans to file a $25 million lawsuit against the department and asked prosecutors to consider filing murder charges against the officer. The shooting occurred shortly before 2 a.m. Thursday after five officers responded to the Fruitvale station to reports of a fight on a train, officials said, though they have not confirmed whether Grant was involved in the fight.

The new video, obtained by television station KTVU, shows two officers restraining a struggling suspect. While the man is lying face down on the ground, one officer appears to be seen pulling out a gun and firing a single shot into his back.

Civil rights attorney John Burris, known for his work in several high-profile cases involving police abuse and corruption, said at a Sunday news conference that the shooting was "the most unconscionable shooting" he has ever seen. He said that the Alameda County district attorney should consider filing charges of second degree murder or manslaughter against the officer. "I've drafted a notice of claim against BART for $25 million I plan to submit officially," Burris said, adding that the officer had violated Grant's civil rights and caused his wrongful death.

The Police Department is in the early stages of a thorough investigation, BART police Chief Gary Gee said Sunday at a news conference. He declined to discuss many details, as doing so "before all the facts are in could compromise individual recollections and do disservice to the truth and the answers we're all seeking." BART police are cooperating fully with a parallel investigation by the Alameda County district attorney's office, Gee said. Gee declined to identify the officer but said he is a two-year BART police veteran. The officer was given drug and alcohol tests before being sent home on administrative leave Thursday, Gee said. The last BART officer-involved shooting occurred in May 2001, Gee said.

Mario Pangelina Jr., whose sister had a 4-year-old daughter with Grant, said he was on the same train as Grant that night, but on a different car. He said he saw Grant's interactions with police immediately before the shooting. "First, an officer grabbed Oscar by the neck and pushed him against the wall," Pangelina said. "Oscar didn't fight him, but he didn't go down either. He was like, 'What did I do?' Then another officer came up with his Taser and held it right in his face. Oscar said, 'Please don't shoot me, please don't Taser me, I have a daughter,' over and over again, real fast, and he sat down."

Grant was the only man in a small group sitting against the wall who was not handcuffed, Burris said, so officers grabbed him away from the wall and pressed him belly-down onto the ground. "One officer was kneeling over his neck and head, and another standing over him," Burris said. "He was not kicking, and one officer was pulling on his arm. The standing officer pulled out his weapon and, within moments, fired the gun into Mr. Grant's back." Burris said the bullet went through Grant's lower back and ricocheted off the ground up into his lungs, killing him.

BART's 206 sworn officers attend the same academies and training programs as city police and sheriff's deputies. According to BART's Web site, its requirements go beyond state guidelines, as every officer applicant must have completed at least a year of college. Police have one video of the incident in evidence, different from the video that local media have released, and the quality of that video makes it hard to reach a sure conclusion, Gee said. "It's not clear to me why the officer felt he needed to shoot. I don't know, and from my perspective it doesn't matter," Burris said.

Original report here


The BART police officer under investigation for the fatal New Year's Day shooting of an unarmed man quit his job Wednesday rather than speak with investigators, an official said. Former officer Johannes Mehserle, 27, has given no comment to BART investigators since the incident in which cell phone videos appeared to capture Mehserle shooting Oscar Grant III as Grant lay facedown on the ground at the Fruitvale station, BART spokesman Linton Johnson said Wednesday.

"We had a meeting scheduled for him to talk, and his attorney and a union rep came in his place and dropped off a letter of resignation instead," Johnson said. "It's interesting, because he was supposed to be talking for the administrative part of our investigation, which is privileged information and couldn't have been used in any criminal investigation anyway."

While BART officials said they've been trying to get Mehserle to talk ever since the shooting, Mehserle's attorney said he hadn't received any requests for an interview from Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff's office as of Wednesday night. "In general, a prosecutor would contact the attorney of anyone under investigation for a crime," said Christopher Miller, Mehserle's Sacramento-based union attorney. "So that would have come to me."

Orloff declined Wednesday to discuss any details of his office's investigation with the media, citing a standing policy his office has to allow police departments to act as the main public face of any officer-involved shooting investigation. "We've confirmed the investigation, and that's about as much as we'll say," Orloff said. "The normal thing in a situation like this is to interview anyone who can shed light on it."

Mehserle's resignation takes away BART's ability to leverage a statement out of him, since he can no longer be fired for remaining silent, Orloff said. Orloff met with a group of about 50 clergy and community members in his office, after they held a rally outside the courthouse and packed the lobby outside his office with wall-to-wall demonstrators demanding he meet with them. Among the demonstrators was Oakland Councilmember Desley Brooks (Eastmont-Seminary), who called the shooting an "execution" and demanded an explanation of the behavior of the other officers present during the shooting.

Brooks and the clergy spoke with a crowd of about 100 people outside the courthouse just after 9 a.m. and said they'd been denied a meeting with Orloff and demanded swift justice for Grant's killing. "What shall we tell our sons?" said the Rev. Dr. J. Alfred Smith Sr. of Alan Temple Baptist Church. "Shall we tell them to fear the law? Is the law their enemy? If Oscar Grant is not safe, then I am not safe."

Minister Christopher Muhammad of the Nation of Islam said Mehserle should be arrested immediately. "What is left to investigate? The whole world has seen this," Muhammad said, referring to widespread Internet videos taken from witnesses' cell phones. "We can discuss his mindset later. But right now he should be detained and held on criminal charges."

At a demonstration in protest of the shooting Wednesday afternoon at the Fruitvale station, Grant's younger sister, Audrena Gilbert, said Mehserle has not talked to the bereaved family. "I want him to start. I want him to apologize for what he did," said Gilbert, 19, of Oakland. "I want him to tell the truth, why he shot him, what he shot him for. That's all I want."

The afternoon protest, which had a microphone open for anyone to speak but was led by speakers for the Coalition Against Police Executions, drew a crowd of 500 people, police estimated. The station was temporarily shut down, and trains let passengers off at stations on either side of the stop. "It's not enough the officer resigned today," said Sean Dugar, president of the California National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Youth and College Division. "We demand he be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. "... We shut down one BART station this afternoon. Let's do another one next week." Speakers at both the morning and afternoon protests led the crowd in a call-and-return chant, shouting, "I am Oscar Grant."....

Dave Rose, a retired Placer County sheriff's lieutenant who's now an expert witness on police use of force and the co-author of "Police Use-of-Force Case Law," said every bit of Mehserle's training and all circumstances of the situation on the BART platform that night must be taken into account. All the videos should be professionally enhanced and then reviewed frame by frame for every detail, every twitch, he said. Based on Mehserle's experience and how officers react physiologically in high-stress situations, Rose said, it could well have been nothing more than a tragic, noncriminal accident.

But UC Berkeley Boalt Hall Law School professor Franklin Zimring, a criminal justice expert, said "absolutely conclusive" videos of the shooting have convinced him there's no possible justification for Mehserle's actions. "Normally, what you get in a police deadly force interaction is a 'he said, she said' in which there's at least an accusation like, 'There was a flash of metal as he reached toward his pocket,'"‰" Zimring said. "But this guy was already down on the ground. "... He's not in a position to be threatening anybody." Use of deadly force is considered "in terms of a threat to the physical safety of the officer or somebody else, and there's none there in this case," he added. "So it's accident versus intention, but justification is off the table." ....

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

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