Saturday, January 10, 2009

An execution

A BART policeman with two years experience by the name of Johannes Mehserle pulled out his handgun at the Fruitvale Station, stood, and fired one round into the back of Oscar Grant. Currently there has been no investigation by any police agency of this execution, though the Mayor of Oakland has ordered the Oakland PD to launch an investigation. Apologists for police executions claim that Officer Mehserle may have thought he was pulling his taser rather than his handgun. That is a bogus claim. I have held both. Tasers are deliberately engineered so that they cannot be confused with handguns. They have square sharp-edged handles rather than gently rounded ones, they are large and blocky rather than slim and sleek, and if you look at the rear of them you see a square electrical gizmo, not the firing pin of a handgun. They *feel* different. A Taser feels like you're holding a toy gun, it's a large, light plastic thingy. A handgun feels *solid*, though I suppose these new-fangled plastic Glocks may feel a bit less solid (my experience with handguns predates plastic guns, a .38 Police Special and a .45 1911 ACP feel like *guns* and not like anything else).

My prediction: Officer Mehserle will toss out the "I thought he had a gun, I felt my life was endangered" card, the all-white grand jury will decline to indict because it was a black man wearing "gangsta" clothing that was executed, a couple more riots will happen in Oakland, BART will pay out a $10M settlement to the survivors in the civil lawsuit, then nothing will happen. This is not the first time that a BART cop has executed someone, and likely will not be the last time. It's just the first time that people with video phones were handy to take video of the execution.

-- Badtux the Execution Penguin


  1. I don't get it, the guy that was shot was face down on the ground, and either being held by other officers or was surrounded by them. Why shoot anything at all (taser/regular sidearm) at that point, just WTF was the police officer thinking?

  2. That video needs to find its way to the people who is doing "investigation". To be honest, if I seen that video as a juror, I would even consider the possibility of capital punishment.

    Of course, the apologists will point out that it would be easy to make such a mistake with all of the shouting and heckling that was being directed at the officers.

    Even if the intention was tasering, this is an example of the taser being misused. It would be the "this guy is not doing exactly what I want him to do so I just zap him" mentality.

  3. so, if he pulls the "i was reaching for my taser" line, what he is saying is that "i didn't mean to kill him i was just intending to cause intense pain."

    i am not a fan of, nor do i approve of folks rioting. sometimes though, i totally understand.

    peaceful protests can end up with the police using cotton swabs to dab pepper spray onto and into the eyes of protestors. legal challenges can cost a huge amount of money with no predictable result in the works.

    yeah, i understand. maybe what oakland needs is a general strike for a day or two. shut everything down. have the mayor call upon their former mayor jerry brown, bring in somebody who will be trusted to do the investigation.

    if the police do their internal investigation dance the result will be either:

    he performed according to policy.


    it was an honest and simple mistake.

    those cops were proving a point to the young men. the point they were proving was that the cops can roust and fuck with you anytime they feel like it.

    how many more oscars? this shit makes me wanna puke.

  4. Watched the video. Not an execution. Try error. Glocks and Tasers are very similar and this could have been a horrible mistake.

    Before hanging, could we not have..oh.. a trial or something? Innocent until proven guilty?

    The look after the discharge was not glee but more OMG.

    Next time a group of young men give you crap...take it. Because I have to assume that you are one of them..harassing people until the police arrive.

    Saw other vids. Oscar was being less than smart and was probably a great candidate for Tasing (according to the other vids).

    I just realized..Oscar's Tase-worthy behaviours are absent from this vid. And I wonder why. The others had it.

    Before looking for an excuse to loot and riot, try a vigil and pressing for an accounting.


  5. I have little sympathy for the police...lord knows I've had my ass handed to me more times I can remember here in Texas for the horrible offense of having long hair and a being intelligent but undisciplined in my "respect"...
    I'd smart off about "why" I was being questioned or such and then it would be flashlight to the noggin time, or face off the hood time...whatever...
    I learned to just stick to "yes sir and no sir" but it took a cop holding a cocked pistol to my head to get the message across..
    I'm trying to say, I don't know what took place there, we may never truly know, but the murderer in question ( I mean policeman) had no call at all to shoot a man already laying down on the ground...
    Odds are there will be minor repercussions if any to either the department or the murderer...

  6. Wok, the young man was mouthing off at cops and needed to be punished. The sad thing is that most people see no problem with that, even though it is blatantly unconstitutional (under our Constitution, it is the judicial system, not the police, who are responsible for punishing people... the cop's job is to arrest someone and bring him in front of the judge).

    Terrant, you see the typical cop apologist's take on the video below. The video is "misleading". The video "doesn't show the entire situation". The situation is "confusing". The officer looks "surprised" (note that the only surprise I see is on the part of the cops who were holding the dude down, who were like, "what the fuck?!"). The dude being held down was a "bad man" so it's okay to kill him. It was an "honest mistake" because a big blocky Taser is just so damned easy to mistake for a sleek slim Glock. This officer at the very least committed negligent homicide by not ascertaining that he was pulling the trigger on a Taser rather than a Glock even if that last excuse flies, but he will never get indicted, much less convicted.

    Mold, I watched both videos. The first video shows the full confusion of the situation. There are other thug-looking young brown people outside the view of this second video who are wandering around yelling at the police officers. But congratulations on pulling out every moldy excuse for police misconduct that I've ever heard. I heard them both of the other times that I recall someone around being executed by police officers. Yes, when an unarmed man who is not in the process of attacking a police officer or anybody else is shot in the back by a police officer, that is an execution. The last BART execution was a little over ten years ago, when a BART cop shot the top of a guy's head off with a shotgun. The last such execution here in San Jose was a little over four years ago, when a state ATF officer thought he saw someone who looked like a fugitive the officer was seeking, yelled at that person to stop, and the person started running. So he pulled out his service weapon and killed the running person. Who was *not* the fugitive the officer was seeking, but, rather, some random paranoiac afraid he was going to be killed. Hmm, is it really paranoia if you really *are* killed? But really, you might want to recycle some of those excuses, they're starting to stink a little bit, like leftovers left too long in the refrigerator...

    As for the behavior of people other than the police officer in question; The only person who is responsible for my actions is me. If I do something, I am the person responsible for what I did. It's called "personal responsibility". Look it up. Nobody "made" this officer do anything. Nobody was holding a gun at this officer's head and telling him, "shoot or taser this young man or I will kill you." He chose to do it (whichever he was choosing to do). The actions of people other than this officer have nothing (zero) to do with the fact that this officer made this choice and should accept responsibility and the appropriate consequences for the choice he made. I realize it's fashionable here in America today to blame someone else for your fuckups. But that's not what a man does. That's what a sniveling, cowardly worm does. Of which we have altogether too many in this country right now. 'Nuff said.

  7. I guess "he spit on me with AIDS" is no longer an excuse for murderer cops, so the taser/twinkie defense will do.

  8. A couple things:

    The BART Police are a separate entity from the Oakland PD. While there's still the brotherhood of cops, the investigation may go a little better because of it.

    The Alameda County DA has promised to expedite charges (if any).

    Two days after the "protest" in Oakland turned violent, APL announces that they're moving their West Coast headquarters out of the city, costing 300 jobs.

  9. Overlooked by a lot of people is this point: Before the cops grabbed him, the soon-to-be-dead guy was just sitting up against a wall.

    Which is a death penalty offense in a BART station, I gather.

  10. In keeping with your "U.S.=North Mexico" meme, I'd say it reminds me a lot of Brazil, where police death squads execute men they think are members of criminal gangs in the favelas. Which gives criminal gangs more impetus to kill cops. Which gives police death squads...

    And so goes the momentum toward anarchowar, the war of each against all. We're speeding down the path toward the Big Die-Off, as prophesized by Joe Bageant and so many other Doompsters. I'm glad I lived the bulk of my life during the good times. Too bad we fucked it up so needlessly.

  11. BadTux,

    Maybe it was a killing and unjustified. But, as I posted, there should be a trial. Evidence should be presented...just as you did.

    Depending of the UOF Guidleines, I may have Tased our fine upstanding saintly citizen who had remarkably photogenic 'friends' available for trial-by-media within hours of the shooting. And a lawsuit in the same period. Reminds me of the OJ MUST be GUILTY spin from the Goldmans and MSM. If OJ guilty, Goldmans get money..the OJ gravy train keeps running. If OJ innocent, now need get job.


  12. And by way of Nunya's blog, a recent story from the Washington Post about police in Brazil's slums. Are you a police officer, Mold? You'd like this story.

  13. "Nobody "made" this officer do anything. Nobody was holding a gun at this officer's head and telling him, "shoot or taser this young man or I will kill you." He chose to do it (whichever he was choosing to do)."

    EXACTLY !!! And as far as the excuse, er...Explanation that the murderer (there I go again.. OFFICER) simply mistook his Taser for his Glock...well okay...even IF they wore those two very different devices on the same side of their body (AND THEY DON'T) he was in no hurry...he could have looked at his effing hand to make sure he was NOT about to wrongly kill someone instead of just cause them near death levels of nerve disruption...
    There was no hurry.....
    AND HE DIDN'T !! Smooth action..draw and shoot...
    Yeah you gotta love the training and the system that engenders such manly behavior...

  14. "The officer looks "surprised" (note that the only surprise I see is on the part of the cops who were holding the dude down, who were like, "what the fuck?!")."

    Are you confusing me with someone else? The only thing I said was that the apologists (you know the ones who probably approve of Bush's administration as well) would use the chaos excuse.

    @Mold: I've seen the local cops with tasers and glocks. They are not similar. I've also noticed that they always have the gun on one side and the taser on the other. From what I can tell, every cop has the gun/taser on the same side. I suspect that there is policy as to why this is the case.

    I find it a little hard to not be cynical about cops usage of the taser. With stories about cops who effectively taser first and ask questions later, taser people who are doing no more than exercising their first amendment rights (translation: they were not being respectful), and (my favorite) tasering people who are in diabetic shock.

    About a year ago, there was an instance in Indianapolis where a guy in diabetic shock was tasered in front of his kid. He pulled in a parking lot and phoned a relative (sister if I remember) to get help. The cops could not use the "I thought he was drunk" excuse because the reason they knew about him was because of his relative's phone call.

    No, this was a case of this guy is making it inconvenient for the cop so they just whip out the taser.

    Maybe they should replace the taser with cattle prods so that there is no excuse for confusing one with a glock?

  15. If that was not a cop, it would be an automatic charge of first-degree murder by any prosecutor. Of course, since it is a cop, maybe it will be a charge of manslaughter, maybe no charge at all.

  16. I prefer a Taser for the UOF if reason fails. Tasers are less lethal than guns. No, I don't use them for compliance. But I do understand that some would.

    Bukko, thank you for the meme. I have long posted that our economic elites want a favela economy...and that scares me. Death squads are indeed part of this. And an officer that fails to conform can be in trouble.

    Having faced whiney Entitled 'Mericans that felt that birth entitled them to be treated as if Royal, I would have to say it gets old quick. You explain, you give data, you ask politely, you encourage then, you've gone beyond concerned citizen and are making me wonder why you are doing this. Oh, that's're an *******. Great. Me, I just wait until you speed and then give you the max allowed. But I'll bet others aren't so Zen.

    "Free, white, and over 21" was the old way to descrbe the attytood. That you could do no wrong. And others should bow to you. No thanks, I work for a living...and I don't want the favela experience..because then I would have to bow.

    If you-all are so eager to join in the so with an amicus brief.

    Where is the outrage for all the people murdered elsewhere in Oakland? Why aren't we smashing windows for the others? Where's the photogenic 'friends' for them?


  17. Moldy, you apparently aren't aware of the many protests that have occurred in Oakland over the last few years regarding the many non-police-related murders that have occurred in the city. Unfortunately most of those murders did not take place in front of a rapt audience of train-goers as witnesses with at least four camera phones shooting video of the incident so it's hard to tell who's responsible for them.

    As for the "try him in a court of law, not a court of public opinion" -- this cop will never see the inside of a court of law. They never do here in the Bay Area. Anybody else who shoots someone, even accidentally, will find himself arrested at least for negligent discharge, thoroughly investigated, the evidence presented to a jury, and a jury decides guilt or innocence.

    But cops are different here. Their case never gets presented to a grand jury for indictment, and if so, is presented with such obvious reluctance and shoddy investigation that the grand jury is unable to indict (given that a prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich, you know this means the prosecutor doesn't want to indict). In the very unlikely circumstance that a cop *is* indicted here, which typically only occurs if the victim was white and the victim's survivors have lots of money, the case is prosecuted in such a way that it's impossible to convict -- witnesses who saw the incident are not called if their testimony would tend to convince jurors to convict, and the jury charge generally is much more lenient than if a non-cop was on trial.

    If we can't get a fair trial of this guy in a court of law, of *course* we're going to try him in the court of public opinion. It's the only court you're giving us. When you say rule of law applies only to peons, not to cops, you get this situation where cops are tried in the court of public opinion. But don't blame the public for doing this. Blame cops and prosecutors and judges more interested in covering up for bad cops than in seeing justice done. Deprive the public of a court of law, and the only court left is the court of public opinion... which is a damned scary place, but that's where you've left us.

    - Badtux the Justice Penguin

  18. Cops are also supposed to wear tasers on the opposite hip from your "strong" hand -- so you know precisely which grip you're going for.

    I agree that the cop acted without thinking -- he wasn't even carrying a fucking taser -- to "subdue" Oscar Grant for "compliance" and that there was no intent to kill. I'm also given to understand that in discharging firearms, police are trained (to the point of reflex) to fire off three shot center-mass. The single-shot gives credence to the "taser explanation." However, if he's too stupid to mistake a Glock for a taser, even in "the heat of the moment," he's far too stupid to be a police officer.

    That he would have used a taser at all is more the heart of the problem. It is UNCONSCIONABLE to use force to compel compliance in non-harmful situations. As I've said on my own site, I teach professionals dealing with violent mentally ill and developmentally disabled individuals -- hardly people who can be "reasoned" with -- how to keep themselves and others safe while using non-harmful methods to contain the dangerous individual. With that many cops around, it would require only two police officers of similar size to subdue and restrain anyone, and in a manner specifically designed not to cause injury.

    There was not even sufficient reason to use a taser, and numerous methods of asserting control over the situation.


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