Mehserle arrested

I’m tired, ya’ll. Too tired to be angry. So tired of all this shit. The tiredness won’t last forever, of course; I’ll rebound, as I must. But I need a break.

In the meantime, though — I’m cautiously heartened by this.

Mehserle was arrested in the New Year’s Day shooting of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old supermarket worker from Hayward who was lying facedown after being pulled off a BART train by police investigating a fight. An Alameda County judge signed an arrest warrant alleging murder, and Mehserle surrendered without incident, authorities said.

The shooting, which was recorded by passengers in videos widely circulated on the Internet and television, prompted public outrage, and some viewers said that the shooting appeared to be an execution.

Sources said Mehserle was in Nevada because he feared for his safety after death threats were made against him. Douglas County is 15 miles south of Carson City in northwestern Nevada and includes part of Lake Tahoe.

Mehserle’s attorney, Christopher W. Miller of Sacramento, confirmed early today that his client was arrested on suspicion of murder. He said he would not comment further until a news conference today.

I’m waiting to hear the charges. If they’re anything less than first-degree murder, I’m going to feel very tired again.

If anybody’s going to the protest today in Oakland, can you report in on how it went, in the comments?

14 Responses

  1. According to the papers the protest looks to be a lot more well organized than it was last time, with coordination between the police and the organizers. Those organizers are calling for second degree murder, btw. Personally I think we’ll be lucky to see 3rd degree, we’ll see.

    I didn’t hear about the protest until it had already started, I can hear the helicopters circling from my apartment though. I don’t think I’m going to go to this one, but if anything goes wrong with this case…well, I’ll be there for sure.

    I’ll let you know if things start getting sketchy, I’m right near the area where the riots were last time.

  2. Did anyone else notice that he was arrested in Nevada? What was a man, who obviously committed murder in Cali, doing in Nevada?

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2009/01/ex-bart-officer.html

  3. Well he said he was visiting a friend or some such thing because he had been getting death threats (gee whiz really?).

    A former cop friend of mine said he thinks this dude screwed up with that and made everything a lot worse for himself, since he had to be picked up on a warrant and everything.

    On the protest yesterday, it was big, noisy, and peaceful. \o/

  4. there was a little violence at the protest by a small group of troublemakers, but the police and the protesters were actually working together to stop it.

    i do hope mehserle gets what’s coming to him, but i’m worried that this will be the end of it. after all, he’s BART police, not city police. and it’s the oakland police that have been brutalizing and shooting young black men by the bushel load. i’m worried that this will direct attention away from the oakland police’s lousy record, and that getting a conviction will make everyone calm down again.

  5. I have watched the video many times and it is clear in my mind that the man did not mean to do this. I am saddened by so many people not giving him the presumption of innocence because they have some racial agenda.

    It is a sad situation. Too bad compassion only goes one way in this country when mistakes happen. I long for the day when people will show compassion for a white man in a situation like this.

  6. ^^FAIL^^
    You should have stopped at “presumption of innocence”, dude. There’s no agenda involved in noticing who it is that gets shot in the back when already on the ground. Are you one of those fools who think racism is dead already?

  7. In all fairness, you can’t expect “1st degree murder”.

    1st degree is when a person plans out an intentional killing beforehand. Chances are, this Mehserle guy never met or knew Oscar Grant prior to arresting him. 2nd degree murder at the very most, but more than likely involuntary manslaughter. Or possibly manslaughter if this Mehserle guy snapped for whatever reason.

  8. Here is the deal. It’s almost certain Mehserle did not intend to fire a bullet into Grant’s back, at least not at the moment the gun fired. This is because one of the videos of the shooting shows his left hand being blown back away from the slide as the gun goes off. I’m surprised nobody, not even firearm experts, have picked this up. What it means is that he was not prepared for the gun to go off at the moment that it did.

    Some have speculated the jerking motion of Mehserle’s left arm was the result of racking the slide to chamber a round, but that is utter nonsense because all police officers carry their side arms locked and loaded. In particular, the Sig P226 used by BART police is holstered in a decocked double action mode. This is because the P226 does not have a manual safety and relies instead on the long, heavy (10 pound) trigger pull of the double action. Double action means that pulling the trigger brings the hammer into cocked position before releasing it to strike the firing pin. On the other hand, the hammer is already cocked in the single action mode and this means the trigger pull is much lighter and shorter.

    It is very possible that Mehserle forgot to decock his P226 when he chambered the first round presumably sometime before his shift began. That means the gun would have been in cocked single action mode when he drew and pointed it at Grant. As a result of bad habit, poor training (are you paying attention Mr. Burris?) or carelessness, he may have put light pressure on the trigger, thinking the gun was in decocked double action mode. That light pressure, however, may have been just enough to discharge the gun if in fact it was cocked. It is for reasons like this that safe firearm operation requires the trigger finger to stay outside the trigger guard until the decision to shoot has been made.

    Supporting the above speculation is Mehserle’s natural reaction after the gun went off, which was to place his hands on his head and then just stand there in apparent shock and disbelief.

    Assuming the above negligent discharge scenario is true, some big questions still remain. First among them, why did Mehserle draw his gun given no obvious justification for escalation of force? Whatever his reason, absent the presence of perilous conditions not readily apparent on any of the videos, his reckless actions may very well amount to manslaughter (although it would still be a long shot for a jury to convict him on such a charge).

    As a side note, it is possible that the “Taser confusion” defense will be used simply on the basis that it already has precedence in California (see http://www.sfbayview.com/2009/did-bart-cop-who-killed-oscar-grant-mistake-gun-for-taser/). This is despite the fact that it would be highly questionable in this instance.

    In any case, there are other questions begging for answers. Why did Mehserle so fervently avoid talking to investigators? Why has he not expressed any remorse or made some type of public statement even if it was meant to be exculpating? Why did it take the DA over two weeks to file charges? Why did BART officials behave in such a cold, clueless and seemingly uncaring manner?

    Whether or not these questions are ever answered, here is the bottom line. Had Grant and the other suspected brawlers on BART that night been white, there is very little chance things would have played out this way. Perhaps more than anything it was the BART cops’ discerning attitude that sent Grant to an early grave, just as discerning police attitude has previously “done in” non-whites under similar questionable circumstances.

    Having said the above, I am not accusing Mehserle of being a racist or a bigot. After all, he is the product of a modern, post-civil-rights-era American society. A supposedly post-racial society that elects black men to the highest office. Yet in reality whites are still given the greater benefit of the doubt. How much greater? Apparently enough that in situations like the one on the BART platform on New Years’ Eve, it can — and did — mean the difference between life and death.

    And if that isn’t sad enough, just wait until the DA is forced to either drop the murder charges against Mehserle (premeditation will be impossible to prove) or proceed to lose at trial. Therefore, we can look forward to more violent protests and perhaps even some riots. Of course, that will accomplish absolutely nothing in transforming our society into one where the benefit of the doubt is more equally distributed.

  9. Just as a note the second degree murder charge he currently faces specifically does not require premeditation, that’s first degree murder. I think it is however more likely that he will be convicted of third degree.

  10. Great post, Tom.

  11. What was the intention of the officer to pull out the gun? He may say that he wanted to use the gun to force Grant to obey. BUT how can you make a person to obey when he face down to the ground and can not see your gun! The ONLY reason to pull out the gun is to shoot (in this case).

    The intention to pull out the gun becomes the evidence of Murder!

  12. True, second degree murder may involve other conditions than premeditation such as willful intent or depraved recklessness, but those are precluded as well in this instance. It’s not likely to be proven in court that the cop fired intentionally but he only meant to incapacitate, not kill, Grant. Similarly, no jury is going to buy the claim that it is reckless for a cop to merely pull out his gun and point it at a person being arrested– all the cop has to claim is that he saw something that looked like a weapon. This is a de facto, almost unassailable, defense that has been used in almost every police shooting to clear the cop. “Third degree murder”, also known as manslaughter, convictions have been secured in instances involving unjustified use of force and reckless disregard for human life but it would still be very difficult in circumstances involving a cop if the defense is that the gun discharged “accidentally”. So while the truth may very well be that Mehserle pulled the gun because he was pissed off and wanted to repay Grant for his lack of total obedience, no prosecutor will be able to prove such a thing in face of the most likely defense that Mehserle saw something that looked like a weapon, pulled his gun and fired accidentally. On the other hand, the recent surfacing of cell phone videos showing another cop punching Grant a few minutes before he was killed are not helpful to Mehserle’s case (but not very damaging, either). The public image of BART police, however, just got tarnished by a few more shades of gray.

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