Damned if you do, damned if you don’t


On January 1st, 2009 Oscar Grant III was shot and killed by this man:



after he was involved in a fight on the Bay Area transit system known as BART. The full information for the story can be found HERE. While the details of the case remain unclear (hopefully only to the public), Mehserle has been convicted of involuntary manslaughter, and is due to be sentenced in a Los Angeles County courtroom some time today. Oakland police have had a long-standing tension between themselves and the citizens of Oakland, which is all too apparent in the video below:

While the video is unclear, you can clearly hear the taunts and jeers of the crowd towards the police officers, who are trying to gain control (i.e, their jobs) in what seems to be an uncontrollable situation. Mehserle, a rookie officer, claims he accidentally grabbed his gun instead of his taser, though prosecutors and many of the outraged citizens felt differently. In the weeks and months leading up to Mehserle’s conviction, there were several protests that turned violent, forcing the original judge to have the trial relocated to Los Angeles county so that Mehserle could have a fair trial.

While I agree that Mehserle should have lost his job (which he resigned from before they could fire him) and been convicted of involuntary manslaughter, I have to wonder how anyone else would have acted in that situation. Don’t get me wrong. I feel bad that this man was killed, and that there should definitely be some form of justice. But vilifying Mehserle isn’t the answer. And calling for him to be convicted of murder is just as biased as the citizens of Oakland claim their police officers to be.

Look at it from Mehserle’s perspective. He is in a crowded BART station in an unfriendly crowd with several people resisting arrest and causing general mayhem on the platform of the BART station. He is outnumbered and doesn’t know whether anyone in the crowd is armed or not. Considering where they were, it’s not an unreasonable assumption to come to. Police are trained to expect and prepare for the unexpected. Since we’ll never know for sure what was really going through his head, we can’t say for certain that Mehserle accidentally grabbed his gun instead of his taser, but as Grant was resisting arrest and was refusing to allow himself to be handcuffed, Mehserle’s job was to make sure Grant didn’t hurt himself, the officers, and the crowd. While its unfortunate that Grant died because of it, Mehserle was trying his best to make sure the situation was under control. Add to the fact that he was a rookie, and the situation just got even more complicated.

Basically what I’m trying to say is this. No, I don’t believe Mehserle acted in the best possible way, and he should be brought to justice for that. BUUUTTT, I also don’t think its fair to assume that this was racially motivated or that Mehserle had another agenda besides doing his job. Unfortunately, we’ll never really know what happened on that platform, and assuming otherwise is a grave miscarriage of justice, and I hope people take a second to step back and realize what they’re saying before they say it. Take a moment to evaluate it from Mehserle’s perspective, then tell me what you would have done differently.



Filed under lizheartshakespeare

3 responses to “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t

  1. jennifer

    I agree Liz! If the guys wasn’t resisting arrest this wouldn’t have happened in the first place!!

  2. Megan

    Yeah, it’s hard when there is a situation where people, sometimes for good reason, are so untrusting of the police. You are never going to convince them the police officer only made a tragic mistake.

    • Liz

      And that is where I have a problem. I understand that the people have a definite reason to mistrust the police, especially in Oakland. But we DON’T know what was going through Mehserle’s head at the time. We don’t really know what was going through Grant’s mind either, so we can’t say for certain that it was murder. And if we can’t say for certain, then according to our justice system, he shouldn’t be convicted of murder. I can say for certain that it was at least involuntary manslaughter, so I would say its safe to assume that the jury made the right decision.

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