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The cold-blooded murder of Oscar Grant: What happened the night of Jan. 1, 2009

March 18, 2009

Get involved: People’s Tribunal Sunday, March 22, 2-6 p.m., Calvin Simmons Middle School Cafeteria, 2101 35th Ave., Oakland, and Mehserle’s hearing Monday, March 23, 9 a.m., Courthouse, 1225 Fallon St., Dept. 11, Oakland – rally at 8 a.m.

by Reiko Redmonde

On March 5, No Justice No BART, one of many groups formed in response to the execution of Oscar Grant, shut down the Fruitvale BART station, where Oscar was murdered, in the first of a series of disruptions designed to force BART to meet the people’s demands. – Photo: Bill Hackwell
BLOODY BART: On March 5, No Justice No BART, one of many groups formed in response to the execution of Oscar Grant, shut down the Fruitvale BART station, where Oscar was murdered, in the first of a series of disruptions designed to force BART to meet the people’s demands. – Photo: Bill Hackwell
Early New Year’s morning phones in Hayward and Oakland were ringing: “Wake up, wake up. Something’s happened to the boys.” Calls were going back and forth between the families of 22-year-old Oscar Grant and his friends – families so close all the women were called “aunties.” The youth had gone to San Francisco to celebrate. “What the hell had happened?”

The hellish, heart-tearing news soon came. Oscar, their lifelong friend, the one they had played baseball with, gone camping and swimming with, was dead. Shot in the back by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle.

The police murder, caught on cell phone videos, has shocked people. In its wake, the system – the police, their lawyers, the district attorney, the City of Oakland, BART and the media – have spun all kinds of explanations: The killer-cop was a poorly trained rookie; he meant to go for his taser; he was scared; he’s a lone racist; it was a terrible, unexplainable mistake.

But the events of Jan. 1 show that these “explanations” are lies designed to cover up the truth: The killing of Oscar Grant was not a mistake or an accident; it was cold-blooded murder. It wasn’t an isolated act by one rogue cop; it was the culmination of an orgy of brutality by a whole gang of police against a crew of Black youth that included racial profiling and slurs, threats with guns and tasers, assaults and illegal detention.

The system didn’t treat the cops’ actions on Jan. 1 as intolerable exceptions to what they’re supposed to do; instead, the system’s institutions moved to cover up and legitimize this violence and let all the cops but one go free. All this – and the whole nationwide epidemic of police brutality and murder – point to the cold truth that brutalizing, terrorizing and, yes, murdering oppressed people – especially Black people – is what the police are supposed to do – not to “protect and serve,” but to keep people down.

New Year’s Eve – gearing up for suppression

At about 2 a.m., the BART train operator supposedly radioed that there was a fight on the train. She didn’t see any individual involved, and many would question how bad a fight it could have been: No “victims” ever came forward and no fighters were ever identified by any witness. Some said there had been a short shoving match which was quickly broken up. Everyone agrees: The atmosphere inside the train packed with revelers was calm when it pulled into the Fruitvale station, located in a mainly Black and Latino proletarian neighborhood in Oakland.

BART cop Tony Pirone, an ex-Marine, was on the platform and he immediately began targeting Black and Latino youth – although he had no description of anyone in the reported “fight.” When four of Oscar’s friends get off, Pirone let three of them leave but grabbed one. Then, yelling and cursing, Pirone banged on the train window and pointed his taser at two young Black men – Oscar and his friend Michael – and ordered them off the train.

Oscar Grant-inspired graffiti blankets Oakland. Indybay.org contributor Dave Id invites others to post photos of graffiti artists’ work. These photos and many more can be seen there. “Oscar can’t bail out,” referring to the fact that Oscar’s killer, Johannes Mehserle, was granted bail, is on Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Oakland, where it was photographed by Dave Id. “Oscar Grant lives” was photographed by David Harrison Horton, and “Killed by police” was photographed by Dave Id.
Oscar Grant-inspired graffiti blankets Oakland. Indybay.org contributor Dave Id invites others to post photos of graffiti artists’ work. These photos and many more can be seen there. “Oscar can’t bail out,” referring to the fact that Oscar’s killer, Johannes Mehserle, was granted bail, is on Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Oakland, where it was photographed by Dave Id. “Oscar Grant lives” was photographed by David Harrison Horton, and “Killed by police” was photographed by Dave Id.
As soon as Michael and Oscar stepped off the train, they were hammered. Pirone lunged at Michael, grabbed him by his dreadlocks and slammed his head, face down, on the concrete, leaving a large cut on the bridge of his nose. Michael’s friends started to yell, “Why are you doing that?” “What did we do?”

Then Pirone grabbed Oscar and hustled him to a wall. Soon other cops came and threatened more youth with their tasers, yelling the “N” word at the young men, calling them “motherfuckers.”

When three of Oscar’s other friends got off the train, they too were held against the side of the train by Officer Marysol Domenici who thrust a taser at each one, tapping one between the eyes with it.

Another video clip, not shown on TV until weeks after the murder, shows Pirone suddenly stride by Michael, who was handcuffed and lying on the cement, across the platform toward Oscar, hitting him hard in the face, causing his head to snap back.

Oscar fell to a sitting position and put his hands up in submission gesture. One video shows that Pirone then aimed his taser at all three youth in front of him. Although no media has reported it, the video then shows Mehserle striking the youth seated next to Oscar about three times and then handcuffing him. Oscar rises to his knees, protesting.

Pirone then pushed Oscar’s face to the pavement, still threatening to tase him. Mehserle straddled Oscar’s back, pulling his arms back. Pirone dug his knee into Oscar’s neck. People on the train started to shout, “That’s fucked up. Let him go!” Witnesses heard Oscar cry out in pain and tell Pirone, “I have a 4-year-old daughter; don’t tase me.”

Oscar and his friends were fully in “police control,” not resisting. The video shows Oscar lying face down on the ground with both hands behind his back, barely moving, if at all.

But Pirone and Mehserle didn’t stop; they escalated. Pirone claims he heard Mehserle say to him, “Tony, get away. Back up,” a chilling statement pointing to a cold, calculated decision. With Pirone still on Oscar, Mehserle wrenches his gun from its holster and shoots Oscar Grant at close range – in the back.

Cold-blooded murder, cold-blooded cover-up

Mehserle’s attorneys suggest he was going for his taser and made a horrible mistake, while some media “experts” have speculated about how stressed Mehserle must have been. This is absurd. The X26 taser issued to BART cops is plastic and weighs seven ounces. The Sig Sauer that killed Grant is metal and weighs 30 ounces unloaded – more than four times as much as the taser, and feels completely different.

Videos also show that neither Mehserle nor any of the other six police were “stressed out,” horrified or regretful about having murdered Oscar. As Oscar’s friends, still handcuffed, yelled for the police to help Oscar, the cops told them to “shut the fuck up” and said if they weren’t silent, they wouldn’t call an ambulance.

No cop moved to administer first aid. Instead a video clip shows them flipping Oscar over, jerking him up and down, handcuffing him and leaving him to bleed out on the platform.

The cops weren’t in shock or disarray: They immediately began a cover-up. No cop radioed that a shooting had occurred. Pirone ordered the train operator to leave the BART station, taking all the witnesses away – instead of getting their names. As the train departed, Domenici ran after people, threatening them and trying to grab their phone cameras.

After the shooting, five of Oscar’s friends were detained in the BART police station for more than five hours. Sources close to the families say that the youth heard BART police laughing, saying, “We got a good one tonight.”

All this points to the reality that such brutality is ROUTINE for these pigs, including trying to cover it up afterward, and that murdering one of the people can be a cause for laughter and celebration.

What about the “higher-ups,” BART officials, the City of Oakland, the courts? BART officials express sorrow for the killing, yet their own “investigation” made no recommendations, they’ve reprimanded none of their police, and they claim there’s no BART surveillance video showing what happened, despite the fact that BART trains and stations all have cameras in them. BART Police Chief Gee wrote a memo to his troops, explaining how to send money to Mehserle while he was in jail.

Oakland’s DA didn’t arrest Mehserle for nearly two weeks – and then only because people rebelled; Pirone – who initiated the brutality that led to murder and could have been charged with felony murder – has not even been arrested. Nor have any of the other cops. And in its first “prosecution” brief, the DA reiterates the police’s version of events, including repeating Pirone’s claim that Mehserle thought Oscar was going for his waistband – and possibly a gun. Oscar Grant was unarmed.

All the police violence leading to Oscar’s murder has been treated as normal, “no big deal,” by the authorities and media. And in this system, police violence IS routine and systemic. Take Oscar and his friends: “These youth are used to being accosted by the police,” said one of the aunties. “It’s been going on since they were 13 years old.”

Another mother showed Revolution pictures of the wounds her son received after a beating by Hayward police several years ago, which broke teeth: He had to be treated in the hospital, including for severe taser burns on his back.

This system is showing that it will do everything it can to protect the ability of its police to brutalize, terrorize and murder the people. Enough is enough!

There is a real need for continued and increased protest and independent journalistic investigation into the murder and its cover-up. We cannot allow this kind of blatant murder to be “routinized,” excused or tolerated.

Get involved!

On Sunday, March 22, 2-6 p.m., Revolution Books and the Bay Area Revolution Club are holding a People’s Tribunal on the Murder of Oscar Grant and the Nationwide Epidemic of Police Brutality that will indict Oscar Grant’s killer and “the whole damn system.” It will be held at Calvin Simmons Middle School Cafeteria, 2101 35th Ave., south of Fruitvale, east of Foothill Boulevard, Oakland.

The next day, Monday, March 23, 9 a.m., is Mehserle’s preliminary hearing at the Rene C. Davidson Courthouse, 1225 Fallon St., Department 11, Oakland. BAMN (By Any Means Necessary) is sponsoring a rally at 8 a.m. outside the courthouse.

Both are key junctures in this battle, and big outpourings of people are needed at both.

Links to videos of the events leading up to, and the murder of Oscar Grant are available at http://www.ktvu.com/news/18426590/detail.html.

Reiko Redmonde manages Revolution Books, 2425 Channing Way, Berkeley, (510) 848-1196. This story first appeared in Revolution newspaper, at http://revcom.us/a/159/OGrant-en.html.

26 thoughts on “The cold-blooded murder of Oscar Grant: What happened the night of Jan. 1, 2009

  1. emery

    Just now read this article! wow, cant believe this could happen in America!…anytime a youth is killed my Heart goes out to that situation!…yeah, u can tell the difference between a taser and handgun if u been trained to handle one!…dont understand this brutality of killing!…may there be Justice for this case!..wow, the first hearing on next monday! keep me posted to what happens here!…

    Reply
  2. Mike Jonez

    are you kidding me? if the police have you surrounded, all aiming at you… what do you expect is gonna happen if you suddenly reach for your waistband like you have a gun?

    the officer didn't know he was unarmed. think about what you would do if you saw some thug, apparantly reaching for his gun.

    it's like the dude WANTED to get shot

    Reply
  3. Mike Jonez

    ALSO… everyone is so quick to call this racism, when the shooting officer wasn’t even white.

    give me a freaking break!

    Reply
  4. Mike Jonez

    whoever wrote this article must have NO journalistic integrity, calling this a murder before it even goes to trial.

    i think you should look up some information for yourself, instead of just relying on what his drunk and stoned buddies, who were cursing the police and resisting arrest, stated.

    for example:

    Mehserle’s motion for bail, citing the police investigation, stated:

    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.”

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

    Reply
  5. Jike Monez

    Hey “Mike Jonez”,

    Citing Mehserle’s motion for bail as evidence of Oscar’s guilt (of anything) is ridiculous. If the situation were reversed, I doubt you’d pay much attention to _Oscar’s_ “motion for bail”, filed by his attorney, would you?

    After all, Oscar is a “thug”. Mehserle was a cop. Therein lies the difference, according to you.

    Only a person who has already decided that there’s no way a cop would or could commit crimes, would say the vapid things you have.

    You think a court filing by Mehserle’s lawyer is proof of something. That’s hilarious.

    The fact that you were impressed or influenced by documents filed by the defendant’s attorney, shows that you rode the short bus to school, son.

    The only thing we can do for the Mike Jonez’s of the world, is to send them a get-well card. Logic is a foreigner to these people. And they can’t abide foreigners.

    Reply
  6. Mike Jonez

    just don’t reach for your waistband bro

    you can’t tell me he thought something good was gonna happen if he did that

    Reply
  7. Jike Monez

    You know as well as I do that you would not accept as factual any content of a “motion for bail” filing if it came from a defendant who wasn’t a police officer; if it came from Oscar (were he still alive). Your bias is clear.

    You’re a classic authoritarian follower. You put too much trust in “the authorities”. It’s the “Mommy and Daddy knows best” mentality of sub-intelligent minds.

    Kinda like you. And “KAT”. Probably a sock puppet.

    Reply
  8. Mike Jonez

    it’s not just a “motion”

    it’s a police report compiled by not only the police officers, but as it clearly states, eyewitnesses

    not every accidental shooting is a racially-motivated homicide

    wake up

    Reply
  9. Jike Monez

    Pirone ordered the train to leave, without taking the names of witnesses. Which one would think he would do, if in fact their interest was in serving justice.

    And yes, dear, it’s just a motion for bail. They’re made all the time.

    If the situation were reversed, you would not take Oscar Grant’s statement, filed by his lawyer, as the absolute truth so true that it cannot be challenged.

    I think I know who needs to wake up.

    Oh, and not everyone murdered by the cops were “thugs” who were deserving of their fate.

    Reply
  10. jimee konz

    a video from a cell phone or security camera can be veiwed by a million different people all in seperate rooms, and all will give you their own take on what they percieved to have happened. documents filled by the defendants attorney, in most cases are either colored up or watered down with delicate language too suddle for most of us lamens to even understand yet be aware of the fact that we were just lied to. a kid was shot. and race related or not, the question to ask is could it have been avoided? who determains when deadly force becomes the answer. i dont believe it was race related at all.or maybe i just pray that it wasnt. i think we give stupid people guns and ask them to enforce laws and protect liberties that they dont even understand. too much power and not enough training. too much responsibility and not enough knowledge. the whole world is gone to shit. and all of us are to blame. so fuck the race card. another human being is dead, and hundreds more to follow. needless killing and violence accurs everyday. and your gonna debate who was right and who was wrong. because thats about all you can get yourself to do, is take a side. jike monez, your just as ignorant and biased as mike jonez.

    Reply
  11. StreamVNC

    The BART officer needs to spend time in the slammer for his mistake. Cops are held to high standard- they are specially trained to act with the appropriate force when necessary. If a mistake is made, then they have to be held accountable.

    That said, I can’t see the cop as a cold-blooded murderer. Manslaughter-yes. Premeditated murder (first degree)? -NOPE

    You people need to quit it with all this talk of oppression by the “police state”. No one is buying your argument.

    Reply
  12. Put Mehserle back on duty

    Firstly I would like to say that this article should be disregarded, it is ridiculously biased and for lack of a better word STUPID. I think the title to this ill informed article should be changed to “One less Black Barbarian threatening the Oakland community”. Redmonde is obviously an arrogant MORON, how dare you refer to our officers as pigs, you are disgusting. Have some respect!!! The only quotes and witnesses reported BY NAME in this article are the friends of Grant?!?!?!

    Reply
  13. Baub

    Mike Jonez is an asshole! You are an insensitive mother fuckers, and eye’m surprised this website even allowed you to say as much stupid shit as you’re saying. How can a person be cuffed in the back, stomach flat on the ground, and reach for a weapon…you fuckin dumb ass moron. Your mentality is what kills inocent people of color all over the world…your mentality is what makes it ok for some pervert to beat and rape women, and only do a few months in jail, verses a person of color serving several years for a crime that they think he “maybe” did. This racist redneck bastard was cought on camera, and you still have the nerves to call it just; fuck you! and the bitch who says we’re playing the race card…this is not poker. Eye (yes eye spell my “I” out)bet if it were your brother, it would have been a different story. Eye hope you dream of losing a relative the same way Oscar Grant’s family lost their son. Eye hope you dream of every relative from grandmother to child, and grandchild lose their lives to a dumb ass pig like the one who murdered Oscar.

    Reply
  14. TheBlackWhole

    Instead a’ toleratin’ theze asshole, pig-lovin’ LOSERS, p’hapz we jus’ need 2 take u foolz out by shootin’ u in the back, too. Give u worthless little fuckz a taste a’ what we’ve been gettin’ all these yearz.

    Oh….but u cowards can only talk shit behind yer keyboards.

    We all know you’d get yer asses STOMPED if u tried 2 talk yer stupid white boy, chickenshit nonsense 2 us face-2-face.

    U better hope we never cross paths, or we guarantee that yer done 4. We’ll happily n’ gladly ‘Nat Turner’ u little bitchez ourselvez. That day’z comin’…n’ if we don’t get u, we’ll get yer family…’cuz we ain’t puttin’ up w/ this shit from u jackasess any longer!

    Watch yer back, asshole…

    = )
    –TBW

    Reply
  15. Mike Jonez

    how is that cop a “redneck” when he’s latino?

    oh and TBW, us cowards can only talk shit behind keyboards?

    you’re the one threatening people over the net, not me

    so yeah, keep running your mouth behind your keyboard, bro

    Reply
    1. theblackwhole

      It'z NOT a "threat", bitch.

      DAT'Z a PROMISE. = )

      B/4 We go…We takin' "cops", lawyers, "judges", n' LAMEASS muthafuckerz like u OUT.

      Maybe not tomorrow…maybe not this decade…We YOUNG, soooooo We GOT PLENTY a' time! = )

      N' in DUE TIME…ur KARMA WILL come back 2 HAUNT u…n' like the WTC towers, uuuuuuuuur ALL GOIN' DOWN!{ ( 8K

      Believe DAT.
      http://theblackwhole.wordpress.com/2009/10/07/da-

      Watch ur back, asshole. = )

      –TBW

      Reply
  16. Роберт

    Ну конечно. Фактов всегда достаточно – не хватает фантазии. Желаю автору ее поболее :)

    Reply

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