Support SF BayView
Donate or Subscribe to SF Bay View
Follow Us Twitter Facebook

The Mehserle effect: Vallejo shooting tests era of police accountability

December 24, 2010

by Kevin Weston

Guy Jarreau Jr. from New America Media on Vimeo. – Video: Ann Bassette, Malcolm Marshall and Paul Billingsley

Vallejo, Calif. – In the Bay Area, the veneer of police impunity seems to be thinning even as high-profile cases of police shooting unarmed Black men – in Oakland and nearby Vallejo – continue to occur.

Guy Jarreau’s mother kisses his picture on a memorial poster. She says her son “came to me this morning,” saying, “Yours is the voice I have always carried since I’ve been your child. Now you need to speak for me.” – Video frame: YO! TV
Aftershocks following the killing of Oscar Grant III by ex-BART transit officer Johannes Mehserle have shaken up the landscape of police and community relations in the Bay Area. The age-old idea that, when it comes to Black males, police could get away with anything is being challenged.

Mehserle’s trial and guilty verdict, though probably only partial justice – he’ll do about a year when it’s all said and done – may have opened a crack in the blue shield of silence that has protected police from ever being held accountable. Grant was killed in front of a 21st century audience. The scene of Grant being shot in the back by Mehserle is seared into the public memory, because it was virally-enhanced, and things have changed for the better – in the short term.

Weeks after Mehserle was sentenced to two years for involuntary manslaughter in the slaying of Grant he was denied bail.

It was a miracle that the Alameda County District Attorney even filed a case against Mehserle. And that is the difference between now and years past. Inside actors – officials sworn to uphold the law – are questioning suspicious police-involved shootings more than ever before.

Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts made headlines recently when he asked for a federal investigation into two of his officers involved in the shooting death of an unarmed East Oakland barbershop owner. The same team of OPD killed an unarmed woman in 2008.

And, as if to underscore this budding new era of police accountability, officials in Oakland – including the newly elected mayor, Jean Quan – participated in a meeting designed to address police brutality recently hosted by the NAACP.

Now, the case that could break the trend or add full moon energy to the movement for justice involves a 33-year-old Black man, community activist, student and mentor who was gunned down in a lonely alley in Vallejo, Calif.

This is the scene on Sonoma Boulevard in Vallejo following the police murder of Guy Jarreau. – Photo: Mike Jory, Vallejo Times-Herald
Guy Jarreau Jr. was shot and killed by a Vallejo Police Department officer Saturday, Dec. 11, in the early afternoon. He had lived in Vallejo eight years after coming from New Orleans.

According to eyewitnesses interviewed by New America Media, Jarreau had his hands up facing the officer who shot him twice.

“I didn’t hear no warning, no nothing,” said Martin L’Esperance, a witness and friend of Jarreau. “We were shooting a video on Sonoma, walking back and forth with the cameras. Guy was with us. He was security for us. He was there watching us, directing us – telling us what we should do in the video. The cops just pulled up on us, told him (Mr. Jarreau) to stop – everyone was walking away. He (Mr. Jarreau) walked into the alley. The cop just came onto the sidewalk, pointed into the alley and shot twice.

“After that they told us all to get on the ground. … They handcuffed us all. We was like, ‘Is he ok? Is Guy ok?’ And a cop said: ‘I don’t give a f––k if he lives or he dies.’ That’s what the cop said. Then he said, ‘If you say something else, we’ll shoot you too.’ … Guy didn’t have a gun,” said L’Esperance.

L’Esperance and other eyewitness accounts contrast with the Vallejo Police Department’s story. According to an official press release: “Officers arrived on scene at 3:01 p.m. and observed the suspect flee into a nearby alley. The officers confronted the man, who was now holding the firearm. In self defense, the officer fired on the suspect, striking him at least once. The suspect was taken via air ambulance to a Bay Area trauma center, where he was later pronounced dead.”

According to witnesses, Jarreau lay on the ground for close to 45 minutes before he received help.

Time will tell whether or not the Solano County district attorney will look at this case with the scrutiny it deserves. If officials do act, Vallejo will join Oakland, Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans in pursuing justice by holding police responsible for their actions. It is a moment of momentum for accountability that Black communities across the country should welcome.

Kevin Weston, longtime contributor to the Bay View in the ‘90s, is director of New Media and Youth Communications at New America Media and, for the past 10 years, director and publisher of YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia. He can be reached at kweston@newamericamedia.org. This story originally appeared at New America Media.

32 thoughts on “The Mehserle effect: Vallejo shooting tests era of police accountability

  1. Kate DeGraaf

    If you living in the bay area and curious about where you can go to organize against police murder and brutality in your community contact berkeley copwatch at berkeleycopwatch@yahoo.com or pop in at a meeting. We meet every monday at 7 at 2022 blake st in berkeley (the grassroots house). There are lots of great active groups working on different facets of this issue in our community. Contact us and we can put you in touch with a group working on something that we think you might be interested in. The important thing is, if you think police violence has gone too far, you don't have to accept it as a part of life. Get involved, it will make you and your community stronger.

    Reply
  2. satori

    "Officers arrived on scene at 3:01 p.m. and observed the suspect flee into a nearby alley. " suspect of what.. we must continue to ensure the same outrage is expressed after EVERY shooting. We cant get used to hearing this. We must not accept this

    Reply
  3. student

    Guy was a student at Napa Valley College. There is a growing movement on campus against oppression and for social justice.

    The Vallejo police made a huge mistake by shooting and killing this man.

    Reply
  4. Realist

    Have you people lost your minds? The inept author, the idiots quoted in the article and the previous posters are obviously from another planet. Dude got smoked because he was ARMED with a gun, ran from the police and failed to follow instructions. Case closed. Great job VPD!

    Reply
  5. Citizen

    L’Esperance is a freakin lie!! He told the cops he did not know who "Guy" was and described him only as some dude who was curious about the video being filmed like everyone else. Now all of the sudden "Guy" was his buddy??? He is just trying to get free promotion for his video…so sad. Guy was shot because he pulled a gun on a cop!! There is an independent eyewitness who saw everything!!! Stop with your hate towards police. You may just have to call them one day!!

    Reply
  6. Get Real

    Are you kidding me? This is what passes as serious journalism? If another black man had killed Jurreau, there would not be a peep. Instead you would blame the society for putting that man in a position where he had no choice (no jobs, no training, institutional racism).

    BTW, we are not all Oscar Grant, many of us have jobs, went to school, pay taxes, and take care of our families. As opposed to acting like the world owes us something. We certainly don't put ourselves in a position to have CONSTANT police contact.

    Reply
  7. TIM T

    By all accounts this man was brandishing the gun and some citizens called the police on him. This is Vallejo where everyone is armed. He had the oppertunity to give up but he chose to run and pull a gun. What would you do if you were the police. YOU WOULD DO THE SAME THING.
    Sorry about your son.

    Reply
  8. seriousl)?

    How irresponsible of you to write this garbage!! Seriously? Any NORMAL REASONABLE person would have reacted the same way the cop did. Why don’t you write an article on how freaking shameful it is that so many black people are killing EACH OTHER! If you’re going to pull the race card (which by the way is getting really freakin old) then that’s where you need to start. You All are slap in the face to Martin Luther King JR. Shameful!

    Reply
  9. Sally

    This is just more excuses by the same people who hate the cops at all costs. One post mentions copwatch in Berkeley CA. We know for a fact that copwatch is a joke and they only protect the criminals. They have lost all credibility in the Bay Area. They jump on anything that has to do with fighting the cops. If copwatch only harrassed the cases that deserve it, we would think differently. We cannot and will not support copwatch in the future, unless changes are made with their leadership. We used to send donations to copwatch, but no more.

    Reply
  10. Justice

    I love these people are excusing the unjustified slaughter of a black man so quickly even though eye witnesses contradict the police report.

    The youth were trying to make a positive statement in their community and for that this poor man was gunned down!

    This must end!

    Justice for Oscar Grant!
    Justice for Derrick Jones!
    Justice for Guy Jarreau!

    Reply
    1. the facts indeed!

      Yes, let’s stick with the facts!
      Why don’t the police release the damn video?
      What they are they trying to hide?
      How does it feel to be a pawn of law enforcement? You are the guardian of their lies!

      Reply
  11. CYD

    Uhmm….I saw what happened and it is not the same story as the cops are telling.
    The whole scene was chaotic as if the police realized they had made a big mistake.

    Reply
  12. Gordon DeSilva

    Guy Jarreau was a wonderful brother in Christ! He was a member of my church @ North Hills & would come and share during Upward basketball how Jesus transformed his life like He did mine and so many others. I don’t know what took place that day, but I know nothing less than a full investigation would be a crime. Journalists on both sides are in it to sell, we all know that! The truth is what the people deserve, what the public deserves. No one is above investigation. If the policeman is innocent, he should welcome an independent investigation with full access to all information, evidence and media/ video. If Guy was in the wrong, I want to know, as there are lessons to be learned and taught! Either way, the truth is what we seek. To all know this… God did a wonderful work in Guys life, too many of you fall into the trap of black vs white and painting stereotypes to rationalize situations. Guy was no stereotype. He was his own man, hard working, with dreams and goals, and trying to make a difference. He certainly came from a rough background where many never escape, but Guy was determined! I’ll break another stereotype for many of you, our church is not a “black” church or a “white church”. It’s a church who’s goal is to love God, serve others, and change the world!

    Reply
  13. Vallejo Citizen

    Guy’s life reflected in the works he did. North Hills church, Napa Valley College, in the community, people saw who he was. He was sober, humorous, and positive. He was making his own life happen!
    How did the media immediately portray him? How does the ignorant folks react to “just another black guy shot”, in a Vallejo alley no less, in broad view, doing nothing so obvious as watching over the security of a group of college students. We all watch out for eachother in Vallejo. WE ALL DO.
    Regardless, it bears mentioning that Guy’s family and friends have formed a community coalition guided by God First to continue the call for an investigation!
    Here’s an individuals memorial site [not representing the coalition] containing the latest press postings:
    http://justiceforjarreau.blogspot.com

    Reply
  14. Justice

    PRESS RELEASE

    WHAT: Community Rally
    WHEN: 1:00 p.m., Friday, January 28, 2011
    WHERE: 321 Tuolumne Street , Vallejo , Solano County District Attorney's Office
    …WHY: Vallejo Police killing of Guy Jarreau, jr.
    CONTACT: Verrose Hill, <707-235-6872>

    In front of the Solano County District Attorney's Office and Service and Justice Center there will be a community rally calling on the District Attorney to conduct a full investigation into the fatal shooting of Guy Jarreau jr. by the Vallejo Police Department in December of 2010. The event will be open to the press, and there will be knowledgeable and concerned community members available to speak about the case and the call for Justice for Guy Jarreau, jr., a man who worked for peace in the community and was an active student at Napa Valley College, working with the Black Student Union and at the Child Daycare center.

    A central demand of the community is that all evidence, including video taped footage of the nights events documenting the incident of Guy’s killing, be made available for a full and comprehensive investigation by the District Attorney or the California Attorney General. At this time video tape evidence from the incident is being withheld by the Vallejo Police Department, and there are contradictory accounts between the police who say Guy had pointed a weapon at an officer, versus eye witness testimony stating that Guy kept his weapon in his belt and had only a green plastic cup in his hand.

    We, the concerned residents of the community and our fellow people, are demanding that justice be done by exposing the truth of what occurred that fatal night in December on Sonoma Blvd. All evidence from video taped recordings as well as eye witness testimony must be considered in a full investigation by the District Attorney or the California Attorney General. If the police department has done their job according to the law, then they have nothing to hide by releasing the tape for use in a full investigation by the DA.

    We further ask that the paramedics who arrived at the seen come forward with their statements.
    We ask for the police dispatch recordings.
    We ask for any witnesses to issue statements.
    We ask that Vallejo Police issue their officers with ear-bud bluetooth video cameras.
    We ask for a Citizen review panel.

    Endorsed by,
    God First
    Black Student Union, and UMOJA, of Napa Valley College
    Students for a Democratic Society of Napa Valley College
    Peace and Freedom Party of Solano County
    Oscar Grant Committee
    Katrina's Dream
    Movement for a Democratic Society – East Bay

    Reply
  15. Memories...

    If there are ANY eyewitnesses to the murder of Guy Jarreau, Jr. by the Vallejo Police, the family is asking you to please come forward and give your statement(s)! Also, Mrs. Andrea Jarreau-Griffin, the mother of Guy Jarreau, Jr., continues to hold monthly vigils, in his honor, at the exact location where he was murdered. Vigils are held every month on the 11th so, please come out and show your support as well as provide Mrs. Jarreau-Griffin with any pertinent information you may have. Thank you!

    Reply
  16. Lipozene

    I tag it to my favorites internet site list and will be checking back soon. Please check out my web site also and let me know what you think.

    Reply
  17. Lipozene

    Amazing article. I am so impressed. Could never think of such a thing is possible with it…I think you have a great knowledge especially while dealings with such subjects.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

BayView Classifieds - ads, opportunities, announcements
San Francisco Comcast