I don't know how much play this story is getting outside the San Francisco Bay Area. Oscar Grant, a 22 year-old black man, was returning home to the East Bay on the Bay Area Rapid Transit in the wee hours of New Year's Day morning. There were reports of fighting between two gangs of men on a train.
At that point the story gets problematic. BART police at the Fruitvale BART Station in Oakland stop the train and begin arresting black men. How they were identified as "the fighters" is unclear. An initial story about the fighting continuing on the platform after the train stopped appears not to be true. During the arrest Johannes Mehserle, a BART cop, shot Grant, who was lying face down on the platform with his hands behind his back. The bullet passed through Grant's back, ricocheted off the concrete platform and back up into Grant's lungs. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.
What makes this case remarkable is that there have been several videos taken on camera phones of the events on the platform. One clearly catches Mehserle get up, draw out his gun and shoot a defenseless Grant in the back. Another officer is kneeling on Grant's head as he is shot. Another video which was released several days ago shows events moments before the shooting. Officer Pirone, the kneeling officer, walks up to where Grant and two other men appear to be calmly talking with a female officer and unprovoked punches Grant in the face, then threatens the three men with his taser.
Another interesting thing to note is that the mood of the people on the train is all against the police. If the police had actually been rescuing the crowd from two gangs of thugs you'd think that some people would have been happy.
This is a fascinating case, in part because it seems to confirm a lot of minority complaints against police, because it has such a brutal and as yet unexplained murder, and because much like how new technology affected the lacrosse case it has affected this case. There are rumors that cops seized cellphone cameras on the platform after the shooting, but apparently not enough.
And it seems like the media has been behind the story. Keep your eyes open about this case.
Welcome back,Bob! I hope you will be giving us your perspective on the Troy Davis and OJ affairs as well. We are having a blizzaed around home and I am cut off from my machine and a lot of my materials most of the time these past days. See you all soon!