Monday, July 19, 2010
Another shooting in Oakland, in the vicinity of the Fruitvale BART Station - chillingly, the same station of where unarmed train rider Oscar Grant was shot and killed by BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle in the early morning hours of New Years Day, 2009. In court, Mehserle claimed to have been reaching for his TASER and to have mistakenly drawn his service pistol instead.
There is sufficient reason to believe Mehserle's account.
During the early morning hours of New Years Day 2009, the situation on the Oakland side of BART was already veering terribly out of control. At approximately 2:00 a.m., BART Police responded to reports that up to 12 people were involved in a fight on an incoming train from the West Oakland BART Station and the participants were "hammered and stoned."
Bay Area Rapid Transit System: West Oakland and Fruitvale Stations are in the heart of Indian Country.
Grant and several other men suspected of fighting were physically removed from the train by officers and detained on the platform. When Officer Tony Pirone handcuffed one of them, this angered other riders. When five other officers, including Johannes Mehserle, arrived at the Fruitvale station, they found the situation chaotic. Mehserle's partner on duty, Officer Jon Woffinden, said the incident was one of the most frightening he had experienced in his 12 years as a police officer.
BART police were on edge because two guns had been recovered in separate incidents along the rail line over the previous hour. Immediately before arriving at Fruitvale, Mehserle was involved in an incident at the West Oakland station where a teenage boy with a semi-automatic pistol had fled from police and jumped off the station platform, breaking several bones.
According to court testimony, Pirone said he heard Mehserle say, "Put your hands behind your back, stop resisting, stop resisting, put your hands behind your back." Then Mehserle stood and said, "I'm going to taze him, I'm going to taze him. I can't get his arms. He won't give me his arms. His hands are going for his waistband." Then Mehserle popped up and said, "Tony, Tony, get away, back up, back up." Pirone did not know if Grant was armed. Mehserle had fear in his voice. Pirone had never heard Mehserle's voice with that tone. Mehserle sounded afraid.
At that point Officer Mehserle drew his gun and shot Grant once in the back. Grant then exclaimed, "You shot me!" Grant was pronounced dead the next morning at Highland Hospital in Oakland.
Immediately after the shooting, Mehserle appeared surprised and raised his hands to his face; according to Michael Rains, Mehserle's criminal defense attorney, several eyewitnesses described Mehserle as looking stunned. Witnesses say Mehserle said "Oh my God!" several times after the shooting, and many saw him put his hands to his head.
Anyone who has ever experienced the kind of fear and adrenalin-charged atmosphere described above can readily believe that even a highly-trained professional is capable of making this kind of fatal mistake. One's peripheral vision and situational awareness drops to a basketball-sized sphere floating about eighteen inches in front of one's face; one struggles to overcome the primal fight-or-flight instinct; actions are dictated from the medulla oblongata, the most primitive part of the brain that controls the most basic of functions, such as walking and breathing.
The jury agrees with me, apparently; on July 8, 2010, Mehserle was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and not guilty of second degree murder and voluntary manslaughter.
A citizen of Oakland breaks into at Sears during peaceable protests in Oakland CA after Johannes Mehserle was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Oscar Grant, Thursday, July 8, 2010.
This brings us to last week's shooting, at the same BART station. This event is significant not only because of the tragic loss of human life, but because it follows on the heels of civic outrage against the Oakland PD, following the perceived light sentence Mehserle received for the events of January 1st, 2009.
Around 8:00 a.m. on Friday 17 July, Oakland Police received a 911 call about a man armed with knives and acting suspiciously heading towards Fruitvale station.
Oakland PD officers contacted BART police officers, two of whom attempted to approach the man - a Latino - but he ran away. After a short pursuit, Oakland officers attempted to use Tasers on the suspect twice, but to no avail.
Officers said the man was holding a knife in each hand and charged at the officers, who opened fire on the suspect. Three Oakland and two BART police officers shot the man, who was pronounced dead at the scene. Witnesses reported that the officers shot the man multiple times.
This is a legitimate act of self-defense, and should have no problem standing up under investigative scrutiny. There is a drill conducted at the Schoolhouse - a.k.a. the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center & School - that establishes just how fast a person can close the distance before you can draw your pistol and get off a shot;
Using a Pro-Timer (a device that gives a loud beep to initiate whatever training action and captures the time in milliseconds at the sound of a gunshot), two soldiers are positioned side-by-side, one facing toward a target 7-to-10 meters downrange, the other facing in the opposite direction. At the beep, the shooter draws his sidearm and fires into the target as fast as possible, while the other soldier runs in the safe direction until he hears the gunshot. Even with highly trained and experienced shooters, the distance covered by the runner averages twenty-five meters.
A man armed with two knives running toward me? My personal SOP is to draw my weapon; situation and time permitting, give warning but do not hesitate to open fire. Last time I checked this is still the United States of America, where the citizenry is entitled to the right of self-defense.
The good & worthy citizens of Oakland practicing their time-honored Constitutional right to loot I mean peaceably assemble and protest.
I lived & worked in the Bay Area for several years before joining the Army in Oakland, California. That place was a zoo then and apparently it still is. - Sean Linnane
Anti-BART propaganda created by agitators to enhance public perception against BART Police Officers.