Saturday, 10 January 2009

Oscar Grant and BART

Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old black father of a 4-year-old, was shot by Bay Area Rapid Transit police on New Year's Day. The video is here, warning, *trigger*:

New Video of Bart Shooting Is Clearest Yet
Posted using ShareThis

the story is here.

Possibilities for action are here.

And here is my letter to the BART board of directors, Chief Gee of the Oakland police and Sergeant Chlebowski of BART:

Dear Director Ward Allen, Board of Directors at BART, Sergeant Chlebowski and Chief Gee,

As an American citizen living abroad, I was horrified to hear about the shooting of Oscar Grant on New Year's Day. Unfortunately, having been born and raised in the States (near Washington, D.C.), despite having been born years after the Civil Rights Act was passed, I was not surprised.

I tried to believe it was an accident. I WANTED to believe it was an accident and that, as Linton Johnson told CNN, the officer was devastated. I tried to picture a scenario where the accused was unrestrained, fighting, trying to run away - was in some way posing a threat.

Then I saw the video. And my horror and rage went incandescent. It is painfully clear that he was sitting against the wall, first pleading his case with a police officer - as is clear from his body language. Then, a police officer comes from off camera, apparently telling him to stand up, which he does. At which point, his standing up becomes an excuse for TWO OFFICERS to put him on the ground, one restraining him at his head in some way.

The second officer, *WITH MR GRANT FACE DOWN ON THE GROUND*, pulls his weapon - and please don't pretend that he confused it with a Taser, because, as any many police officers with a district or state have publicly stated, they feel VERY different - and calmly removes the safety and pulls the trigger (thus negating any theory that he thought it WAS a taser).

It was obvious to me that Mr Grant didn't pose a threat. Officer Mehserle needs to be tried for first degree murder. As TwoStrayDogs says over at Shakesville:

"I watched the train-window video several times with several of my colleagues; we're all members of a major northern CA PD. No, we don't know what was being said, or what closeup details were missed in this incident. However, all of us looked at each other and said, "Oh, Jesus." Suspect was down, under reasonable control, two officers pinning him by his arms and shoulders with the third officer near his lower back. There was no "Taser mixup." You don't draw and fire a 50,000 volt device at danger-close proximity to other officers involved in a melee. The chances of hitting your partner(s) are too great. He drew his weapon deliberately, took aim, and discharged that weapon. You can also see the surprise in his partners when they jump up after having the round slam into the suspect inches from their faces and torsos. I have no idea what that shooter was thinking, but the video sure looks like an execution."

Not only he, but also his colleagues, none of whom said, "WTF are you DOING?" need to be tried for murder and as accomplices to murder. Nothing else would qualify as justice.

I would also like to see police officers getting more than *72* hours of training in when to draw their weapons and how to use them. They should get 100s, if not 1000s of hours of training in how to cope in a crisis situation. It MUST become second nature, like breathing. This is what they deal with ALL THE TIME. In addition to trying them, you MUST examine their training.

Clearly, in standard police procedure, all the suspects would have been patted down for weapons. What I don't understand is, if they were seen as threats, WHY OFFICER ME


There's nothing here to exonerate him, and the officers are further damned by their attempts to confiscate all cameras and mobile phones to hide the evidence.

After eight years of wanting to burn my passport, I finally felt proud to be an American again after we elected an African-American as president in November.

Please do the right thing here. Please, let me continue to be proud to be an American again.

I've spent too long being ashamed.

Thank you.

Kind regards,
Irim Sarwar


CJ said...

Umm... holy crap.

Hadn't seen the video. I know there may be "another side" to the story, but it looks like a clear cut case of murder to me.

WHY didn't people react? Bloody hell! And the big, bald copper's idea of "First Aid" was splendid: "Pull patient by the hair. Roll him over. Dump on accomplice's feet."

Yeah, really good airway management there.

Irim said...

Hey, hon,

I know. I desperately wanted to have something to hold onto, to believe that I could find just one little thing that would have justified his pulling out his gun. Or even a taser.

I saw the video and instead saw 100 other things he could have done instead, like cuff him. I mean, the suspect WAS FACE DOWN ON THE FLOOR WITH ANOTHER OFFICER AT HIS HEAD.

As for the bystanders, I'm guessing it's the 'there are cops and there's a situation here' that stopped them; I think we're all trained not to interfere with law enforcement. I wish they had, but the bystanders I'm really angry about are the other cops.

And yeah, perfect description of the attempted first aid. Apparently the bullet ricocheted off the pavement and pierced a lung. Ok, he may not have had much chance then, but appropriate first aid might have gotten him to hospital?

Why didn't the officers ask if there was a doctor around once it happened?

Lots of questions - we all deserve some answers.


CJ said...

Oh, the version I read was that the bullet went through his back, out his torso, ricocheted on the pavement, and went back through his torso, shattering a lung.

Here's an article with the attorney recounting some of the autopsy result. Delightful.

And absolutely agree that the other officers should have bitten the shooter's head off, taken his gun off him (!!! Especially when he could have killed them too! wtf-f-f-f-f!) and called for medical attention immediately.

He broke every rule of gun safety, suspect handling, and common sense. And what really pisses me off is that he makes all police look bad. The collateral damage from this hasn't even begun.

I'm just getting angrier and angrier...

jonathan said...

wow, both you and CJ blogged this. I linked to it on my (web crawlers only) home page a few days ago. Never done that before. It seems this story is hitting a raw nerve. Hopefully millions and millions of citizens will be asking questions about just how much *Law* they want enforcing on defenceless people.

Irim said...

Oh, the version I read was that the bullet went through his back, out his torso, ricocheted on the pavement, and went back through his torso, shattering a lung.

Sorry, hon, I wasn't clear - that's what I meant, mea culpa for not being clear.

Love your post.

As for the article...*headdesk*.

And he died in hospital several hours later - question to the medic - what do you think his chances were, even if everything had been done properly: e.g., proper first aid, shouted for a doctor, ambulance there asap?


CJ said...

Honestly, I don't know. I've read that the weapon used was a Sig, and I know that a common round would be a 9mm which has a velocity of about 1,200 feet per second ('high velocity').

Thus he would have started off with a high velocity, penetrating gunshot wound to the chest, which is associated with large energy transfer and cavitation. Then the ricochet might have lost sufficient velocity that it became a 'low velocity' round when it re-entered his chest. This could cause a 'tumbling' pattern of injury, and/or the round could have fragmented. Also, don't forget the introduction of foreign matter from the pavement.

It's a grim injury and survival depends a lot on what got hit. A couple of statistics suggest a pretty low initial survival rate. And then remember you still have to survive sepsis and respiratory damage in the days and weeks afterwards.

So your question - would better, prompter help have helped? I honestly don't know, but it couldn't have hurt. :) And it mainly just demonstrated crappy training. Again.

Do you realise all three of us have posted about this somewhere online? I agree with Jonathan. I think this is an unusually upsetting story. And you realise it wouldn't have been possible ten years ago without tech like camera phones?