Deadly Force

Early New Year's Day, a fight broke out at an Oakland, CA BART station. A man was sat up against a wall and questioned. Then he was pressed down face-forward onto the ground. An officer used his knee to hold down the man's head and neck. A second officer stood up, pulled out his handgun, and shot the man in the back. A passenger on a BART train recorded the murder on his cell phone.

The video is here:

The man was Oscar Grant. He was shot dead. The officer was Johannes Mehserle. He has not been arrested, nor has he even been questioned. It has been 5 days since Johannes Mehserle shot and killed an unarmed, face-down, and restrained man in the back, and the investigators say they have not yet questioned him.

This is from the San Francisco Chronicle:

Don Cameron, a former BART police sergeant and weapons expert who now teaches police officers about proper use of force, said Monday that he had watched footage of Grant's death and was convinced that the officer had meant to fire a Taser - a device that he said BART began using recently.

Footage taken from inside a BART car by a phone camera, first shown by KTVU television, shows officers forcing Grant to the ground and trying to hold him down. One officer appears to try to put cuffs on him before drawing his weapon and firing. In the video, Grant appears to struggle with the officers, though it is unclear exactly what he was doing.

Cameron said he made his conclusion based in part on the officer's stance, and the fact that a second officer moved away from Grant just before he was shot, perhaps trying to avoid a second-hand shock.

"If someone was actively resisting, which it appeared this guy was, the device to use would be the Taser, to overcome his resistance," Cameron said. "The Taser is a great controlling device. But if you grab the wrong device, you kill somebody."

This is pretty hard to believe. A handgun is heavy and smooth and has a very signature feel. A taser is light and boxy and has a very different feel. (From what I can find online, it looks like an average handgun is about twice as heavy as an average taser.) Even if his gun and taser are similar, why on earth would they be kept anywhere close to the same place on his person?

Why did this BART police murder an unarmed, unthreatening man?

How can we prevent this from ever happening again?

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