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Oscar Grant execution by BART cop: Clear, close video view from platform

January 8, 2009
Oscar Grant with his daughter
Oscar Grant with his daughter
At the end of the video is this message: “A friend of Grant who was with him on the crowded Oakland train station platform at the time of the shooting said Grant pleaded with officers not to harm him: ‘Oscar yelled, “You shot me. I got a 4-year-old daughter,”‘ said Fernando Anicete. ‘Oscar was telling us to calm down, and we did. We weren’t looking for any trouble.'”

Listen to an extraordinary interview with Oscar Grant’s cousin by Minister of Information JR in his Block Report broadcast Wednesday, Jan. 7, on Hard Knock Radio, KPFA 94.1FM, beginning 18:55 minutes into the program, following a live report by Greg Bridges from the protest at the Fruitvale BART station. In JR’s interview, Oscar’s cousin, Donald Wiggins, reveals that the BART police left Oscar to lie on the hard, cold concrete of the platform for 30-40 minutes after he was shot – with no medical attention, no effort to save his life – while they snatched cell phones from witnesses. Look carefully at the end of this video to see the police dragging Oscar along the platform after they shot him.

Commentary by Harrison Chastang follows the video.

BART cop shooting brings echoes of Rodney King

by Harrison Chastang

The videotaped shooting death of Oscar Grant by a BART police officer on New Year’s Day marks how far technology has advanced since the 1991 videotaped beating of Rodney King. The cell phone video recorded by BART rider Katrina Vargas shows that Grant was unarmed and that he apparently was not acting in a manner that would compel an officer to consider using a firearm.

Grant’s death was recorded by several other cell phone video cameras, and may have been recorded by BART security cameras. The videos were posted immediately on the Internet, where they were seen by thousands, if not millions of people before being picked up by the mainstream news media. The ongoing reporting of the Grant murder by everyday citizens armed with cell phones is a contrast to how the world learned of the King beating 18 years ago.

On the evening on March 19, 1991, Los Angeles resident George Holliday heard a commotion outside his window and pointed his newly purchased Sony Handicam toward what appeared to be a gang fight; upon zooming in, Holliday realized he was recording a group of LAPD officers taking turns beating an unarmed Black man with billy clubs and metal flashlights.

Holliday took the videotape to KTLA-TV, which aired the beating of Rodney King, and the rest, as they say, is history. The King beating videotape was the first time that a televised video was used to document clandestine police abuse. Police officials defended previous televised police beatings of Vietnam era anti-war and Civil Rights protesters as a justified use of force, but few law enforcement professionals defended the officers videotaped beating King.

Over the decades thousands of people, particularly Blacks and other non-whites, have complained about police abuse, but until the King beating video, most police abuse charges were dismissed because police misconduct cases were usually based on the officer’s word versus testimony by victims and eyewitnesses who often were deemed not credible by prosecutors, judges and juries. The five officers charged in the King beating were found not guilty despite the tape clearly showing that King was unarmed and was not resisting arrest. That verdict sparked days of violence in LA and outrage throughout the country.

The New Year’s Day murder of Oscar Grant probably wouldn’t have been recorded 20 years ago. The Sony Handicam used to videotape the King beating, at a foot long and weighing more than two pounds, would have probably been too big and bulky for most people to casually carry around, especially on New Year’s Eve. Even if someone had a larger camera at the Fruitvale station on New Year’s Day, the camera would have been so conspicuous that BART police officers may have prevented a videographer from shooting the incident.

Holliday was lucky that there was an assignment editor at KTLA willing to take a look at the King beating video and that it was a slow news day when Holliday called about the tape. If Holliday had called the station about the King video on the day of O.J.’s slow speed chase, the Northridge earthquake or when some other major LA news story was breaking, assignment editors would have probably been too busy to look at the King beating video.

Cell phones are so small and commonplace today that police often are oblivious to their presence and are unaware that most cell phones have the capability to shoot and instantly transmit still and video images. The woman who recorded Grant’s shooting said that a BART police officer attempted to seize her camera, not realizing that content shot or recorded on many cell phones can be transmitted in a few seconds to other computers or the internet. Today’s camera equipped cell phones are virtually everywhere because phones can easily fit in a purse, pocket or on a belt holder.

Before the invention of inexpensive camcorders in the 1980s, the only people who could get video on the air were TV news crews and freelancers who could afford the six figure video cameras, videotape and editing equipment required to produce “broadcast quality” video. The message behind the Rodney King video was that anybody with a camcorder could document police and public officials as long as someone was willing to put that content on TV or cable.

Friends and relatives of Oscar Grant have used the multimedia tools of cell phone technology and the internet to inform the world about Grant’s murder, to demand accountability not only for the officer responsible for Grant’s death, but for the BART Board of Directors, the public agency responsible for the BART Police.

Harrison Chastang is news director at KPOO 89.5 FM, 1329 Divisadero, San Francisco, CA 94115, (415) 346-5373,, a historic beacon in the Black community and one of the few remaining Black owned and controlled radio stations in the country. Tune in his news show Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 5:30 p.m. and his jazz shows Tuesdays at 6 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. He can be reached at This story first appeared at

10 thoughts on “Oscar Grant execution by BART cop: Clear, close video view from platform

  1. nickel

    he thought he was going to taze grant, NOT shoot him.

    just watch the cops reaction at 1:32.

    he’s shocked. he looks at the other cops and raises his hands to his head,,just like the lawyer did after watching the shooting, and saying “why did take his gun out?”.


    there were witnesses that heard a cop say “oh my god”. i bet it was the cop that did the shooting.

    tragic accident.

  2. Juan

    Goes too show you that as a black man, you have no rights. You will be racially profiled by the police hunt down, and shot like wild animals without any justice for the law that they have sworn to uphold.

  3. moriah

    this is a shame that this happened.. the police has no right to grab there gun especially if its not an gun situation.but as we all know that police are always ready to grab or harrass a young black man. young black men have not been able to stand at a buss stop nor able to walk down the street with out the police bothering them. the police always and will suspect on young balck males. that police officer was wrong and he needs to be in jail i dont care if he federal or not thats just a word but he is human just as oscar grant was and he needs to be in jail.. the police officer knew what he was doin when he shot him he knew were his gun sits and he knew the difference from a gun and a taser.. that police should be in jail and not on pay leave..

  4. cynthia in tennessee

    this is sooooooo sad..the timing was so wrong.just when I thought we were all going to get along!We need to stay on our knees! WE will get threw this!

  5. Brian Richard

    The shooting is horrible. What compounds this tragedy is the apparent cover-up by law enforcement that is going on now.

    The man was murdered in cold blood. It appears the officers involved were trying to goad the man into a conflict and when they failed to do that, they shot him.

    Very troubling.

  6. Carrie

    It’s hard for me to believe, but if you actually believe that the police officer is innocent, then why the heck didn’t he try to save his life after he “accidentally” shot him? In the video, the cop does look surprised, but then nobody takes any action. In fact, the cops only seem to continue trying to detain everybody. Right after the gunshot, one of the cops should have been on their phones/radios calling in an ambulance. If Mr. Mehersle would have at least done that, people might have a tad more belief that it was a mistake, AND more importantly, Oscar might still be alive.

  7. mary Post author

    Thanks for that very crucial observation, Carrie. What you’re noting along with what we heard from Oscar’s cousin, Don Wiggins, that Oscar was left to bleed to death for 30-40 minutes while the cops confiscated everyone’s cell phones, adds up to a strong case against ALL the officers, it seems to me.

    Mary Ratcliff, editor
    SF Bay View

  8. Memory C

    It’s always sad to see a man get shot on camera but a black man get shot??? Its even worse. If the man wasn’t struggling, why put yourself out there like that? I hope that white cop stays in protective custody, because if he doesn’t, he’s a dead man!!!! I will pray for his well being and his family. Tragic.. So tragic

  9. Malia

    At approximately 2:00 AM PST, BART Police responded to reports that about twenty people were involved in the equivalent of a “barroom fight” on an incoming train from the West Oakland BART Station and the participants were “hammered and stoned.”…drunk & high.

    Officers removed Grant and several other men suspected of fighting from the train and detained them on the platform. Grant and another man ran back onto the train after being detained, but Grant voluntarily returned to the platform when officer Tony Pirone grabbed the other man and dragged him from the train

    Pirone confirmed with the train operator that the men detained were involved in the fight.

    BART police had been on edge before the shooting because two guns had been recovered in separate incidents along the rail line over the previous hour.[16] Immediately before he arrived 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.[2]

    Officer Pirone said he told Grant “Stop resisting, you’re under arrest, put your hands behind your back.” At that time Pirone said he heard Mehserle say, “Put your hands behind your back, stop resisting, stop resisting, put your hands behind your back.” Then Mehserle 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.[8]

    The motion also states that the man sitting next to Grant also told police he heard Mehserle say “I’m going to taze him.”[8]

    Mehserle then stood up, unholstered his gun, a SIG P226,[3] and fired a shot into Grant’s back.[21] 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.[3][22]

    There is disagreement of when, or if, Grant was handcuffed before he was shot. The day after the shooting, BART spokesman Jim Allison said that Grant was not restrained when he was shot.[4] Court filings by the district attorney’s office say that Grant’s hands were behind his back and that he was “restrained and unarmed” but do not say he was handcuffed

    Oscar Juliuss Grant III, (February 27, 1986[26] – January 1, 2009), was the father of a 4-year-old daughter and lived in Hayward, California.[15] Grant had worked as a butcher at Farmer Joe’s Marketplace in Oakland’s Dimond District after previous jobs at several Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets.[9] He attended both San Lorenzo and Mount Eden High Schools in Hayward until the 10th grade and eventually earned his GED.[9]

    Grant had a prior police record but the attorney for Grant’s family, John Burris, argued it was “irrelevant to the BART shooting because Mehserle wasn’t aware of it when he opened fire”.[9][27] Previously Grant had been convicted of drug dealing and, in 2007, was sentenced to sixteen months in state prison for fleeing “from a traffic stop while armed with a loaded pistol”.[9] At that incident, near his Hayward home, San Leandro police shot him with a Taser to subdue him after he threw the pistol into the air and ran.[9] Grant was released from prison September 23, and according to Burris, had been doing well in recent months.


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