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Can we stop making tasers look and operate like guns now?
November 6, 2010 9:38 AM   Subscribe

Followup-Filter: Former BART Ofcr. Johannes Mehserle, who shot and killed Oscar Grant, has been sentenced after being found guilty of involuntary manslaughter [previously]. Although the jury originally did not believe the officer's story - that he had intended to reach for and fire his taser but grabbed his firearm instead - the prosecution offered insufficient evidence to show that the use of his firearm was intentional. Former Ofcr. Mehserle will spend 2 years in prison for the shooting.
posted by thesmophoron (82 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
He won't even. He gets credit for time served. Less time than some of the demonstrators from the last protest about this matter.
posted by serazin at 10:11 AM on November 6, 2010 [6 favorites]


Actually he will probably be out in seven months with time served.
posted by blucevalo at 10:14 AM on November 6, 2010


He'll be eligible for release in seven months.
posted by corey le fou at 10:16 AM on November 6, 2010


He'd have gotten more time for peddling weed. Outrageous.
posted by Scoo at 10:16 AM on November 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


Why would it have even been permissable for him to use his taser in that situation?
posted by Riptor at 10:17 AM on November 6, 2010 [11 favorites]


I find it hard to believe that if I just shot someone the prosecution would have trouble convincing anyone that I did it intentionally.
posted by winjer at 10:31 AM on November 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Two years for putting a round into a guy who is in custody and face-down on the ground is bullshit.

So was out-of-towners who BARTed in for the riot. Once the arrests are made public, it's gonna be 75% non-Oakland-residents, and the fucking black-hoodie, Mickey-Maoists from Revolution Books over in Berzerkeley.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:36 AM on November 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


His defense was "I thought it was my taser"? The news coverage in the previous link shows no need for a taser from what I can see anyway.
posted by dabitch at 10:37 AM on November 6, 2010


Why would it have even been permissable for him to use his taser in that situation?

This is what bothers me, or anyhow it's one of many things that bother me. There shouldn't have been any way for the officer to mix up his gun and his taser. And there should be no taser use at all unless there is a strong need to subdue a person: Use of a taser should not be punctuation, should not be a touchdown dance.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:39 AM on November 6, 2010 [16 favorites]


From all accounts, it was primarily a peaceful march with minor damage if anything, mostly after the police forcibly pushed the march off their path, blocked them in, declared it a crime scene and then arrested them all for failing to disperse.
posted by yeloson at 10:43 AM on November 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


the prosecution offered insufficient evidence to show that the use of his firearm was intentional

You mean, apart from the part where he drew his gun, aimed it, and pulled the trigger?
posted by schmod at 10:46 AM on November 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


[comments removed - we don't do the whole "I hope he gets killed/raped in prison" thing here]
posted by jessamyn at 10:51 AM on November 6, 2010 [39 favorites]


There shouldn't have been any way for the officer to mix up his gun and his taser.

Talk to whoever manufactures TASERs for LEOs - they look (and probably feel/heft) identical, no doubt for ease of handling and use. I'm guessing that in training, they establish a routine of which weapon is holstered on which side. Looks like under great stress, that routine can fall apart.

FWIW, confusion-wise, these are the TASERs our local LEOs use. Looks like a 9mm.

By contrast, here's the most common consumer product, the C2. Looks like an electric shaver.

On preview, what the OP said in the title.
posted by toodleydoodley at 10:52 AM on November 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Looks like a 9mm.

The point is he doesn't go for either of them, that's what should happen in any situation like this.
posted by setanor at 11:23 AM on November 6, 2010


To be honest, I had kind of expected him to get away scott free.

Well, he basically did. The most important development in this case, I believe, is that the DA persued this at all. And for those who express concerns about rioters (a concern I share given how the riots disproportionately burden small, immigrant and people of color owned businesses), the DA only filed charges AFTER the first round of riots. I find it difficult to believe there would have been charges without that level of response.

Please send a note to Holder asking for a Department of Justice investigation of Grant's murder.
posted by serazin at 11:27 AM on November 6, 2010 [7 favorites]


Or directly email the DOJ: AskDOJ@usdoj.gov
posted by serazin at 11:34 AM on November 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


toodley, that looks like a nine, all right. Is there anybody out there who can confirm whether a police-issue taser feels and operates like a standard police sidearm? Does it have the same grip, and the same heft? Is there a safety that has to be released? Is it located in the same place as the safety on a handgun? Do police officers routinely keep a round in the chamber (because I assume you don't have to operate a slide to fire a taser)? If it's really that easy to mistake a pistol for a taser, then I suppose Mehserle's verdict moves from horrendous travesty to ordinary travesty; but, in that case, somebody needs to sue the living shit out of the people who make these goddamn things.
posted by steambadger at 11:36 AM on November 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


they look (and probably feel/heft) identical

No they don't look identical. They also don't feel/heft identical either.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:37 AM on November 6, 2010


If he'd have put him on a bicycle and run over him he wouldn't even have had to go to trial.
posted by cccorlew at 11:45 AM on November 6, 2010 [5 favorites]


You have the right not to be killed. Murder is a crime! Unless it was done by a policeman, or an aristocrat. Know your rights!

(Wow, two occasions in one morning to post that. Huzzah American justice.)
posted by scody at 11:45 AM on November 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


ADVANCED TASER M26

Glock 19

These look nothing alike and furthermore the weight and balance are different.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:47 AM on November 6, 2010


I would have been impressed if they made it all the way to Fruitvale from Ogawa. That's a hike. As it happened, the march ended about three blocks from where I live, and I go home maybe a half hour before they got there. I don't know about the crowd makeup, but in the camera shots of people getting hauled away there were a bunch of people who were close to matching Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey's suspicions.
posted by QuarterlyProphet at 11:48 AM on November 6, 2010


Do police officers routinely keep a round in the chamber

Yes.

If it's really that easy to mistake a pistol for a taser

It's not.

Is there a safety that has to be released?

Glock's don't have saftey's; I'm not sure if tasers do or not.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:49 AM on November 6, 2010


In what way?
posted by blucevalo at 11:49 AM on November 6, 2010


My question was referring to QuarterlyProphet's comment above.
posted by blucevalo at 11:50 AM on November 6, 2010


I apparently don't have the security clearance to view that particular Glock; but from looking at other pictures returned by a google search, I can see how an officer who was stupid, in a panic, and/or poorly trained might mistake one for the other -- IF the feel and balance were similar.

I'm harping on this not in support of Officer Mehserle -- who at best attempted to do something heinous and unjustified and ended up doing something much worse out of criminal irresponsibility -- but because I can't fathom the level of brutal stupidity that would lead to a cop deliberately shooting a civilian in front of dozens of witnesses, several of whom were filming his actions. And because, if his defense is true, then some action needs to be taken against the people who make tasers, immediately.
posted by steambadger at 12:02 PM on November 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Steambadger, the grips and feel are not similar. The weight and balance are completely different. There is no way a person trained in the use of firearms and tasers should be mistaking one for the other.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:08 PM on November 6, 2010


I thought tasers were supposed to be used as a non-lethal substitute for guns, and used essentially when you would normally use a gun. He had the suspect subdued on the ground, so why on earth would he need to reach for a gun? He doesn't. No need for gun = no need for taser.
posted by reformedjerk at 12:13 PM on November 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


To blucevalo: White, college aged, in black hoodies, looking like college students from Cal, the occasional bandanna over the mouth.
posted by QuarterlyProphet at 12:20 PM on November 6, 2010


If he'd have put him on a bicycle and run over him he wouldn't even have had to go to trial.

Derail: There have been a ton of stories about that over the past 6 months, and a good FPP on the issue would be in order. Generally speaking, even the most egregious bicycle-related deaths do not even make it to court.

posted by schmod at 12:23 PM on November 6, 2010


out-of-towners who BARTed in for the riot ... the fucking black-hoodie, Mickey-Maoists from Revolution Books over in Berzerkeley

Please stop parroting these "outside agitator" lines as though they were true, explained anything, or contained any legitimate political point. Read some of George Ciccariello-Maher's numerous articles reporting on the Mehserle protests and you'll see that the reality is far more interesting than this facile red-baiting nonsense:
[T]he functional vanguard was composed largely of the young, black teenagers most acutely aware of their relationship to the police. There were chants of “We are all Oscar Grant!” and several protestors lay in the middle of the street with their hands behind their backs, mimicking the position in which Grant was executed.
And:
[T]o blame anarchists for the palpable anger in the streets that night is utterly comical ... [T]his brief moment was notable for a total absence of any conflict within the crowd, as white and Black, anarchist or otherwise, came together however fleetingly as comrades. But fleeting it was, as the police were all the while biding their time and waiting to move in. And it was not agitators, but infiltrators, who posed the most danger, as many observed undercover police dressed not as black-clad anarchists, but as media, equipped with press passes issued by the City of Oakland.
posted by RogerB at 12:24 PM on November 6, 2010 [11 favorites]


in basic police training, wing chun is prefered for close quarters melee. with training a person could have a gun pointed 8 inches from the head, finger on the trigger, and take it away from them. It works even if you pull the trigger. That is risky. This happened, I recall were an officer grabbed the perps weapon...and handed it back to the criminal...instinct. but it was the instructor who showing off by disarming and then re-arming the student that did damage.

but ignorance is no excuse. That situation looked contained, back up seemed to been have called for, the officers were checking the perimeter, the officer closet to the shooter reacted with suprise but measured as if one of them agreed to taser the victim.

I hate to say Manslaughter is the charge.
that or stack up charges that he never sees the free world again.

This is one case were i wished the weapon had jammed.
the worse spectacle of policing in my limited experience.

the defense is weak and all must have PUKED at using that as an argument. The bitch of it is what if this cop saved...10 lives, 3 even 1. NO, he broke every fiber of a policemans duty. The 'Heft Argument' sir, IMO, is about precedent.
that is all

nice follow-up post thesmophoron.

ceasar would have been pissed.
posted by clavdivs at 12:26 PM on November 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks, AElfwine. If that's the case, then we're either talking about a radically incompetent human being, who should never have been allowed anywhere near firearms -- or, more frighteningly, a cop who thought he could get away with murder in front of dozens of witnesses. And was correct.
posted by steambadger at 12:27 PM on November 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


then we're either talking about a radically incompetent human being, who should never have been allowed anywhere near firearms
.
.
{BANGS FIST ON CLASSROOM DESK}
that is all
.............

posted by clavdivs at 12:33 PM on November 6, 2010


Please stop parroting these "outside agitator" lines as though they were true, explained anything, or contained any legitimate political point.

I'd imagine that when the issue is that violence against black people is justified in the media by a constant myth that black people are somehow more violent than anyone else, the issue of property damage and who is responsible for it is a legitimate political point. Especially when just a week ago, riots over the World Series in San Francisco was portrayed as "joyous celebrations".

No, the damage is never JUST people from the outside. But it's damn important to point out that what shifts things from peaceful to property damage is just a few people- and if those people are outside protesters who have no vested interest in Oakland, never spend time there, and/or police infiltrators, that's something worth noting.

And, also, if the folks from outside are carrying weapons like molotovs, which THEN the police use as justification for arresting everyone including people who are not associated.
posted by yeloson at 12:43 PM on November 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yes, it's important to identify bad protest tactics and to isolate deliberate provocateurs. No, that doesn't mean just presumptively lumping the solidarity of white radicals in with some fantasized evil black-hoodie-wearing "violent" (=property-damaging? seriously?) "anarchist" scapegoat faction that's been blamed for inviting/justifying police violence at every even slightly indecorous protest since the Seattle WTO meetings.
posted by RogerB at 12:56 PM on November 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


Pretty funny the people trying to claim all these outsiders were a bad influence on Oakland. Have you ever spent any time there? Oakland doesn't need any help from Berkeley (or anywhere else for that matter) to fuck shit up.
posted by sophist at 1:03 PM on November 6, 2010


Once the arrests are made public, it's gonna be 75% non-Oakland-residents, and the fucking black-hoodie, Mickey-Maoists from Revolution Books over in Berzerkeley.

Absolute bullshit.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:13 PM on November 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Legitimate anger against a system that churns out results like the Mehserle verdict is one thing. I'm disgusted that his being convicted of anthing at all is considered a victory.

But why do people come to Oakland to express that anger? Why not break windows and tear shit up where they live instead of com to Tha 'Town?

Because people think Oakland is a dumping ground, and they don't live here so they come shit in our back yard rather than their own. BART's first two letters stand of "Bay Area", yet Oakland gets all the broken windows and "Oh, aren't they savages there in the 510". This is what us locals resent.

When the arrest records for this latest riot come back, if the addresses of the arrested are at least 70% non-Oakland, I will print out this entire thread and eat my and post a photo of it.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 1:21 PM on November 6, 2010 [5 favorites]


But why do people come to Oakland to express that anger?

Because Oscar Grant was from Oakland and he was killed in Oakland? Is this some kind of trick question?
posted by RogerB at 1:26 PM on November 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


yeloson, OPD had an agreement with the organizers that the post-rally march would be from downtown to deFremery Park in West Oakland. The marchers decided to go the other way towards Fruitvale instead—they weren't forced off their route, they were never anywhere near their route to begin with.

As usual, jackasses in the crowd started trashing cars along 14th before they even got out of downtown. If the protesters ever had any chance of being allowed to walk to Fruitvale unimpeded, it ended there.

The "alternate route" the crowd "chose" when they were surrounded near Laney College was created by knocking down construction fence around the worksite at Kaiser Auditorium and trespassing through the site, along the channel to Lake Merritt, to get to 12th St. (or what passes for 12th St. while all this construction is going on).

I have no idea if the incident with the cop's gun belt—their pretense for declaring unlawful assembly—actually happened. But there was good reason for OPD to start making arrests long before the crowd got down to International. And from watching live coverage on the scene it looked like they handled the notification process and arrests with a huge show of force but little or no actual use of it.

I am NOT a knee-jerk apologist for OPD or the BART police. I think Mehserle is a scumbag whose badge gave him a free pass for killing an unarmed black man, and regardless of how it happened he should be doing real prison time for it instead of the wrist-slap he's getting. But I'm also sick to fucking death of the community's well-justified outrage over Oscar Grant's death and the being used as an excuse/smokescreen for peoples' Action Street Warrior LARP sessions.

As to the influence of our friendly trust-fund anarchists to the north, well, I guess we'll see who gets charged with what once OPD sifts through the photos the plainclothes officers in the crowd took. (Probably part of why there was no actual use of force, now that I think of it.)
posted by Lazlo at 1:44 PM on November 6, 2010 [5 favorites]


Glock's don't have saftey's

They do, just not a manual one you have to "toggle". Short story is, if there's a round in the chamber and you pull the trigger (properly), it's going to go off.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glock#Safety

(I own a Glock 17 and a Glock 19)
posted by mrbill at 1:47 PM on November 6, 2010


"First, an officer grabbed Oscar by the neck and pushed him against the wall," Pangelina said. "Oscar didn't fight him, but he didn't go down either. He was like, 'What did I do?' Then another officer came up with his Taser and held it right in his face. Oscar said, 'Please don't shoot me, please don't Taser me, I have a daughter,' over and over again, real fast, and he sat down."

Sigh. Long, seemingly eternal, repeated sigh.
posted by cashman at 2:28 PM on November 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


steambadger wrote: "Do police officers routinely keep a round in the chamber"

Yes. They usually keep a round in the chamber (and the safety on, or use a Glock which has a grip safety and drop safety that requires no toggle switch)

I think the sentence may have been too light, but otherwise I think this was the right charge if intent can't be proven. I do have a lot of police officers in my family, but if you check my posting history, you'll note that I find excessive force just as repugnant as anyone.

In the end, though, what matters is what can be proven in court. If you can't prove someone intended to kill someone else, murder is not the appropriate charge.
posted by wierdo at 2:31 PM on November 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


They do, just not a manual one you have to "toggle".

Yes I should have been more specific. This is one of the reasons why I sold my glock and bought a sig.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 3:14 PM on November 6, 2010


White, college aged, in black hoodies, looking like college students from Cal, the occasional bandanna over the mouth.

There are other colleges in the area besides Cal. The majority of students who attend Cal are no longer white. Indeed, the majority of Cal undergrad students are now Asian.
posted by blucevalo at 3:21 PM on November 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


There are other colleges in the area besides Cal. The majority of students who attend Cal are no longer white. Indeed, the majority of Cal undergrad students are now Asian.

I don't understand what your bone of contention here is. Would it have been alright if I just dropped the Cal? I'm sorry if I used UCB as a stand in for X college.
posted by QuarterlyProphet at 3:45 PM on November 6, 2010


Sophist, have *you* ever spent time in Oakland?

I live at E. 18th and 6th Ave and witnessed last night's lockdown and arrests from the other side of the police line on E. 18th. Our neighborhood, known as Funktown or East Lake, is very diverse; there is no ethnic majority and is split fairly evenly among asian, black, hispanic and white folk. During last night's incident it was suddenly full of young white kids on fixies. Make of that what you will.

When the police stopped the marchers at E. 17th and 6th there were only 100 or so left. When stopped they stomped on cars, broke windows, and lit a trash can on fire. These were not people from the neighborhood. I learned later that one of them had grabbed an officer's belt and gun and was quickly arrested.

On our side of the police line there were quite a few people from the neighborhood videotaping the events. We saw the trash can lit on fire but not the smashing of car windows. Everyone out on the street was outraged about the leniency of the verdict. 7 months plus time served for taking a man's life?

At the time no one had any idea why the march had been stopped. Most people thought they should have been allowed to continue if they were marching peacefully. A couple of pretty vocal women yelled at the police, "You should have used those batons on Mehserle!" There was a fair amount of anger but no one seemed to want any trouble.

I spoke with a young man on a bicycle who had been with the march until they were stopped at Laney College (about a mile away). He said that a few people had been breaking windows and jumping on cars. When I said that most of them looked like they had come over from Berkeley or the city, he said that there were quite a few "young, privileged white kids" who wanted to express their anger. About 20 police cars, three helicopters, a mobile command unit, a fire engine, an ambulance and several television vans filled our narrow streets.

Things finally quieted down around 11. Fortunately most everyone kept their heads and no one else was hurt. This morning people were out on the streets and a lot of people were talking about last night. A reporter from the Tribune was interviewing people about their reactions to the events. In the end, some people got to live out anarchist fantasies at the expense of Oaklanders. Oscar Grant is still dead and Johannes Mehserle will still get off nearly scot-free.
posted by donkeybear at 4:13 PM on November 6, 2010 [9 favorites]


the grips and feel are not similar. The weight and balance are completely different. There is no way a person trained in the use of firearms and tasers should be mistaking one for the other.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 3:08 PM on November 6 [+] [!] Other [4/5]: «≡»


I do appreciate your expertise AElfwine Evenstar, but I think you are splitting hairs a bit.

My point was that in a moment of high adrenaline - such as the type of high adrenaline that causes panicked LEOs to think that a cell phone or wallet in the hand of a suspect is actually a gun (and shoot accordingly) - that same wrought-up LEO might mistake one gun-looking/gun-feeling object on one side of his belt for a completely different gun-looking/gun-feeling object on the other side of his belt.

That's why I pointed out that civilian TASERs look like cordless shavers and those made for LEOs look like guns. I'm sure part of that design is so that nobody will shoot a civ holding a civ TASER, but civs will be scared of LEOs holding gun-shaped cattle-prods.
posted by toodleydoodley at 4:37 PM on November 6, 2010


Just as an FYI, there are a number of white anarchists who live here in Oakland.
posted by serazin at 4:37 PM on November 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


He'd have gotten more time for peddling weed. Outrageous.

Not in Oakland.
posted by delmoi at 4:42 PM on November 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


.
posted by jaduncan at 5:29 PM on November 6, 2010


From all accounts, it was primarily a peaceful march with minor damage if anything, mostly after the police forcibly pushed the march off their path, blocked them in, declared it a crime scene and then arrested them all for failing to disperse.

Yeah, I read Oakland Local pretty regularly, but your paraphrase is even less correct than the article is. The protesters had a permit to go to DeFremery Park after the event Downtown. They decided to march to the Fruitvale BART Station instead (and whoever up there said it's a hike, well, yes, but the riots in 2009 started after protesters marched from Fruitvale to Downtown. It's not an impossible journey by any means). The point is there was no "path" to be pushed off by police. When the police gave the the "failure to disperse" notice, that's when some people tried to head up to Foothill blvd, other people started hopping fences.

All the time this was happening, I was watching copter footage, listening to police radio, and reading twitter. The cops moved in to barricade just after some people had been running through the crowd grabbing people's phones and cameras out of their hands, and the report that an officer had a weapon taken came on the radio. People had been jumping on cars and smashing the occasional window all along the route.

Why the protest decided to march down into the neighborhoods with narrow streets and people's parked cars as targets is beyond me. It was a tactically poor decision, as there's nowhere to really get away. Plus there were many reports of the people in that neighborhood being pissed that, you know, their cars were being damaged by dumbshits.

Pretty funny the people trying to claim all these outsiders were a bad influence on Oakland. Have you ever spent any time there? Oakland doesn't need any help from Berkeley (or anywhere else for that matter) to fuck shit up.

Have I spent any time there? I fucking live here, dude. It's pretty funny someone on the other side of the country seems to think they know better what goes on here than, say, Oaklanders. The protests/ riots have all taken place in or a couple of blocks away from my house. I know that most of the people are from out of town because I have seen them. Last night I stood at Civic Center BART, watching people arrive to 1) join the protest, 2) fuck shit up. How do I know they were planning to fuck shit up? Because they were talking about it.

Read some of George Ciccariello-Maher's numerous articles reporting on the Mehserle protests and you'll see that the reality is far more interesting than this facile red-baiting nonsense:

That guy that thinks that white and black coming together to smash up a Footlocker is somehow transcendent? His descriptions of any of these protests are beyond hyperbolic, with nearly "every riot cop... white, some sneering defiantly." In a previous article, the same crowd he describes as being led by a "functional vanguard... of largely young, black youth". No, dude, this is the same crowd I saw being led by the jackass from Berkeley Revolution Books( an outpost of the Revolutionary Communist Party) leading people down my street with a megaphone, exhorting people to smash things.

Seriously, look at this video that C-M links to in this article. Here they are again about 45 minutes later, having walked up 8th street almost to Madison. You tell me if it generally looks like Ciccariello-Maher's Young Black Vanguard. I think he has a story he'd like to tell, and is embellishing to support his point of view.

But whatever. People have their ideas of what Oakland is, and they write or say what they want to support that. It doesn't change anything about the fact that sentencing was bullshit.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:45 PM on November 6, 2010 [14 favorites]


Of course there are, serazin, but apparently they're not the ones rioting. From the post-verdict riot in July:

"Three-quarters of the 78 people arrested in Thursday's riot in Oakland came from outside the city, Police Chief Anthony Batts said Friday."
posted by donkeybear at 5:54 PM on November 6, 2010


I lived in Oakland until about three months ago. I lived downtown when the "riots" took place after the event; I rode my bike around downtown amongst the events that took place after Oscar Grant was killed and during a subsequent action. I think the key thing to remember here is that there isn't one "type" of protester--sure, some people went to dt oakland to "fuck shit up," and there was a lot of talk then about how the people being affected by any destruction that took place were local business owners, franchise owners, folks who lived in the vicinity of the action. The national news reported that there was "rioting" in Oakland. But a whole lot of the folks who appeared in Oakland at that time, whether they were from the immediate area or from Dublin or San Francisco or further away, went simply to express the very real anguish they felt about what happened to Mr. Grant. They weren't self-professed anarchists or radicals--or they were. It doesn't matter. They wanted to show in their numbers how the murder ("involuntary manslaughter") of this man had agitated a very deep wound that they felt and feel divides and strains their communities. I'm not saying that any of these actions were transcendent, and I don't condone a lot of the violence and vandalism that took place. But the crowd was composed of more than just banana-huffing anarchists and hepped-up kids wanting to break in their baseball bats.
posted by prior at 6:54 PM on November 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


There was a massive sweep of arrests during the July protest and many arrested were not involved in looting or burning trash cans and were not even charged. Actually, only 17 people were charged. Of the four defendants who the city is trying to sue right now, 3 are Oaklanders.

Personally, I don't see any problem with coming to a neighboring city to attend a protest. Rather, I see it as a civic duty. I go to SF to demonstrate all the time and many important social change movements in our history were made possible by "outside agitators" working in concert with local organizors. And I'm cautious of information that comes from police press conferences.

I share your frustration with folks who have a very limited analysis and lack of understanding of the negative impacts of their actions. As I expressed above, I think rioting is extremely problamatic in our economically struggling city. Yet, in this case (and I believe in other cases) rioting appears to have been fundamental in getting any action on this issue at all. Charges were filed January 13th after riots on the 7th (the murder happened on New Years Eve.)

(As an aside, I found those counterpunch articles horrible and fueled by weird vendettas against particular individuals in city government and totally naive of reality when I first read them and I can't even bring myself click the link to look at them again.)
posted by serazin at 7:50 PM on November 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Clearly spell check is not working for me tonight.
posted by serazin at 8:03 PM on November 6, 2010


This shit makes me want to riot.


I think the sentence may have been too light, but otherwise I think this was the right charge if intent can't be proven.


Yes, I agree with you. But what a fucking shame that when a police officer unholsters his weapon, aims it at a civilian lying face down on the ground with 8 other officer's knees on his back, and SHOOTS...one must prove that the officer INTENDED to fire the weapon.

What a fucking shame.

I wonder if they ever proved intent on this guy. Because as far as I'm concerned, he tried to feed him a twizzler, and he accidentally shot him.

Fucking shame, America.
posted by hal_c_on at 8:18 PM on November 6, 2010


The sentencing seems appropriate given the jury's findings. I'm not sure the judge had a lot to work with at that point. Maybe Mehserle did get away with murder, but justice is more about the appropriate verdict given the evidence than about right or wrong.
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:29 PM on November 6, 2010


But a whole lot of the folks who appeared in Oakland at that time, whether they were from the immediate area or from Dublin or San Francisco or further away, went simply to express the very real anguish they felt about what happened to Mr. Grant.

Also in this vein, it's probably worth noting that Grant was shot somewhere that an awful lot of people in the East Bay are familiar with, by an officer from a force that everyone sees. For better or worse, I think that's going to impact people's reactions. To feel safe, you want to explain this away by blaming the victim, meaning it couldn't happen to you or your friends, but this was a situation where it couldn't be done. I really don't think it's a stretch to imagine people from other cities would turn up with motives other than causing trouble.
posted by hoyland at 8:36 PM on November 6, 2010


And don't forget, Grant lived in Hayward.
posted by serazin at 8:55 PM on November 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


The sentencing seems appropriate given the jury's findings.

Yeah, I don't really get this. The jury found that the prosecution hadn't proved Mehserle was actively evil, and that he may have just been the stupidest and most incompetent cop in the history of policing. Why that entitles him to the minimum possible sentence is beyond me. Do you have an explanation?
posted by steambadger at 9:01 PM on November 6, 2010


I don't understand what your bone of contention here is.

All I'm saying is that the protesters seem to have come from all over California, not just Berkeley. If many or most of them did come from Berkeley, though, that's another story, and I stand corrected.
posted by blucevalo at 9:07 PM on November 6, 2010


Yes, I agree with you. But what a fucking shame that when a police officer unholsters his weapon, aims it at a civilian lying face down on the ground with 8 other officer's knees on his back, and SHOOTS...one must prove that the officer INTENDED to fire the weapon.

Well, that's actually easy enough to explain. A random civilian has no reason to have either a taser or a firearm pointed at the back of a man lying face down on the ground with other people holding him down. Therefore a jury can reasonably conclude that a random civilian who pulls out a gun and shoots a guy in the back either intended to fire the weapon or accidently fired it while engaging in felonious activity.

But that's not true of a cop. Having a taser or firearm drawn is not necessarily indicative of anything, so the state of mind of the officer is exactly the issue. Obviously this isn't supposed to make anyone feel better about this situation, but there is a legitimate reason why Mehserle's state of mind was central to the prosecutor's case.

Oh, and you don't have to prove the officer intended to fire the weapon unless you're trying to convict the officer of a murder charge rather than reckless endangerment or some sort of manslaughter or whatever. But that's tautological; you have to prove the officer intended to fire for a murder charge because the definition of a murder charge is that the officer intended to fire. Objecting to that seems a bit silly.

And, as I pointed out in the last thread about this, the whole issue of what exactly to charge Mehserle with was a big point of contention, and the alternative to what we got was probably a blanket acquittal of a murder charge. That doesn't seem like it would have been more just to me.
posted by Justinian at 9:58 PM on November 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Were they not allowed to use the video of the shooting in court? He shot a handcuffed man that was complying, and from what i understand urging others to comply, in the back. There was no need for the use of any force, and they weren't able to get a conviction? I'll do two years if i can strap him to the ground of a train station and shoot him in the back.
posted by djduckie at 10:35 PM on November 6, 2010


I don't understand what you're asking. They did get a conviction, that's the point of this post. He was just sentenced.
posted by Justinian at 10:48 PM on November 6, 2010


ok, they weren't able to get a murder conviction. Based on the info I have and what I saw on the video, it was a murder.
posted by djduckie at 10:56 PM on November 6, 2010


Justinian, you're a US lawyer. I have to ask why the egg shell skull principle doesn't apply here. The defendant admits intended to harm the restrained victim with a Tazer, claims he accidentally caused more damage than he intended, but does not dispute that the assault was the act that directly caused the death of the victim. It seems to me that if it can be successfully argued that the attempt to assault with the Tazer was unlawful due to excessive force and was intentional, mens rea and actus reus for murder should exist.

I am in the UK and do not deal with US law though, so I am open to explainations of why this reasoning does not apply in this case.
posted by jaduncan at 12:30 AM on November 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think 4 years is the max for involuntary manslaughter without the gun enhancement. I'm not knowledgeable about sentencing, but I'd guess that they go with the max more often in cases of repeat offenders, or individuals committing a misdemeanor that results in death, than in cases of negligence.

An article from last Sunday's Oakland Tribune anticipating at the maximum a "mid-term" verdict, meaning 36 months instead of 24 or 48 (California has determinate sentencing).

The thing is that coverage on this which focussed on the idea that Mehserle intentionally shot Oscar Grant in the back of course makes that seem like a ridiculously low sentence. But if you go with what the Jury ruled, that he mistook his weapon for a taser, then the judge should sentence more in line with an inattentive driver who runs over a pedestrian, or someone who forgetfully left their baby in the car on a hot day. It's a grossly negligent act and a tragedy, but there is no intent to kill.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:41 AM on November 7, 2010


Justinian, you're a US lawyer.

Eh, what?

so I am open to explainations of why this reasoning does not apply in this case.

Because you're begging the question. It isn't obvious that it could successfully be proven (rather than argued) that using a Tazer would have been unlawful, and it isn't obvious that the jury would have convicted on murder charges even if that could be proven. My gut from following the story is that they would likely have acquitted if murder were the only option given to them.
posted by Justinian at 2:52 AM on November 7, 2010


ok, they weren't able to get a murder conviction. Based on the info I have and what I saw on the video, it was a murder.

We went over this in excruciating detail last time around. Between the prosecution and the defense, one of the two parties wanted only a murder charge to be considered. And it wasn't the prosecution. I'll give you three guesses as to why the defense would only want a murder charge to be considered and the first two guesses don't count.

The simple fact is that the prosecution didn't include manslaughter because they were going easy on Mehserle, they included manslaughter because it was considered the appropriate charge and the only way to get a conviction at all.
posted by Justinian at 2:59 AM on November 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


According to the SF Chronicle the judge could have given up to a 15 year sentence with this conviction and stated that he personally believed the shooting to have been an accident.
posted by serazin at 7:06 AM on November 7, 2010


Mehserle was originally charged with murder. The judge ruled out first-degree murder; the jury could've chosen second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, or involuntary manslaughter.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:29 AM on November 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


But a whole lot of the folks who appeared in Oakland at that time, whether they were from the immediate area or from Dublin or San Francisco or further away, went simply to express the very real anguish they felt about what happened to Mr. Grant.

Of course they were, and I don't disagree with their reasoning. However, a lot of the people who wanted to peacefully protest and show solidarity left before the violence began in most cases; and those that were voyeurs to the destruction in my neighborhood were not exactly looked upon favorably by the people who do actually live here. My (former) upstairs neighbor confronted one young woman who was watching from the sidelines, asking her, "why are you doing this? No one here deserves this!"

What I do disagree with is any spin that the violence and destruction in any of these cases is some sort of legitimate uprising of the Oppressed People of Oakland Sticking it to the Man/Shitting Where They Sleep. Neither is true, and frankly, both are offensive: the implication in the first is that a certain class of people is not capable of any other means of expression other than destroying things; and in the second is that people destroy their own neighborhoods because they are stupid animals. (I'm not saying that these are the exact views of people posting here, but strains of both narratives have been prevalent in the media and in comments all over the internet.)

Pretty much everyone I've spoken to in my neighborhood feels that the shooting was horrible, and that the minimum sentence is fucking pathetic, and that the judge is a goddamn idiot. However, once you see someone come down your street breaking your neighbor's car windows, that feeling of anger about the shooting is replaced by how dare you come here and attack the people I know. What is the point in that case? Seriously, what is the tactical reasoning for destroying property and fighting with the people in a residential neighborhood? I want to be mad at the real people responsible for the shooting. Instead I'm furious because some vandals invaded my neighborhood at the urging of a white Berkeley communist with a megaphone.

(That Counterpunch article talks about blacks and whites coming together to decimate a Footlocker, which has a lofty ring to certain types of anti-corporate leftists. He neglects to add the coda- that the next business looted was a small, locally owned grill shop. Though honestly, for some people that would not make a difference. I read an anarchist screed that declared that the rioters consisted of primarily "inner-city youth, as shown... by their targets, Gold-Teeth Masters". Somehow that proved that there were no outside agitators at any Oakland riots. )

And this is why the people above saying the "people coming from outside Oakland" stuff is not true is so infuriating: I know for a fact that people came here from outside Oakland to protest, and I know that people came here from outside Oakland to riot. Further, that the targets chosen have nothing to do with authority, except in the case of one police car, and perhaps McDonald's and Footlocker (over the course of three riots). Most people that were impacted are small business owners and the ordinary citizens of Oakland. So you can imagine why all the people who view Oakland as some crummy wasteland, ripe for violence, are not looked upon favorably by people who live and work here, especially if they show up to break things and go home. When various anarchists and leftist groups claim that the violence was home grown after they've exhorted all their readers to go smash police cars, it's utter bullshit. Yes, people from Oakland smashed things too, and a number of them are from poor parts of Oakland where violence and police corruption continue to be significant issues. I'm not disputing that. But it's fucking cowardly for leftists to latch onto some elevated narrative of inner-city youth rebellion that they are a part of in an effort to avoid the reality that most of the people jumping on cars and breaking windows are young, often white, thrill-seeking and/or violent jackasses with no good story to tell. It does a disservice to the people who really feel unhappy, who realize that there is real injustice in the US; and who see the killing of Oscar Grant as the murder of one of their family, friends, neighbors, or colleagues. It does a disservice to the people who live here, who are either facelessly branded as the "inner city" or "the man" in order to support the projections of various people condemning or condoning riots.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:29 AM on November 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


oneirodynia, i think i just fell in love with you for defending our beautiful city (and its beautiful people) so smartly and stridently.
posted by /\/\/\/ at 4:17 PM on November 7, 2010


video
posted by serazin at 8:51 PM on November 7, 2010


Oakland cops just shot and killed an unarmed man.
posted by serazin at 7:33 PM on November 9, 2010


Let me relate to you a story I was once told by one of my family members. This family member was out on patrol and noticed a fellow passed out in his truck in the middle of the day. Wondering if the person might be in need of assistance, she approached the window of the truck and awoke the man. The man promptly stuck his hand in his pants. My family member, being a relatively calm person didn't shoot the guy who looked for all the world like he was going for a gun.

Turned out the fellow had a brick of cocaine stuffed down his pants and was trying to make sure it was concealed.

This is one way unarmed people get shot. I'm not saying it's right, just that that's what happens when people act like threatening people, even if their intentions are completely honest.
posted by wierdo at 8:03 PM on November 9, 2010


I suspect we have different perspectives about this sort of thing wierdo, but one genuine question I've always had about cops, that applies even if one assumes that cops are justified in periodically shooting people:

In certain instances, cops, I assume, are instructed to go for their guns. At these times, are they told to aim for a leg or an arm? Because it seems that in more often than not, when a cop shoots somebody, he (usually it's a he - I've never heard of a woman cop shooting someone but I assume it happens) kills the person.

If you're afraid someone is going for a gun, why not shoot the suspect in the arm? If they're running away (as in the case posted above), why not aim for the person's leg? I can imagine the chest is an easier target than an arm, but is the idea that if you think the suspect may have a gun, you shoot to kill? Because that seems like a problematic policy.
posted by serazin at 8:18 PM on November 9, 2010


If you're afraid someone is going for a gun, why not shoot the suspect in the arm? If they're running away (as in the case posted above), why not aim for the person's leg? I can imagine the chest is an easier target than an arm, but is the idea that if you think the suspect may have a gun, you shoot to kill? Because that seems like a problematic policy.

When the gun has come out, that is one of the most adrenaline-fueled moments of a person's life. The field of vision narrows and instincts and training gain a much higher hand over the rational mind than a lot of people give it credit for. You become faster and stronger, at the expense of your fine muscle control, as well as the ability to reason and think like and adult human. I suggest the book Deep Survival on the subject.

The arm or the leg is a small moving target. If you hit it, there's no guarantee he won't shoot you with the other arm (assuming you believe he has a gun). Ditto the leg. If you miss, you've let off a round in an urban setting and missed your target, who you believe has a gun who can now shoot back.

All while the subject to for-real, no-bullshit life/death adrenaline.

Aiming for the leg/arm is just not a reasonable expectation.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:30 PM on November 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Moreover, the gun is supposed to only come out when they actually intend to kill someone or reasonably believe that they may very shortly be required to do so. As in, they must fear for their lives.

In a situation where you and another person both have handguns and you believe that the other person intends to kill you, shoot to kill. If you don't, you obviously weren't in fear for your life.

In a perfect world, nobody would shoot at cops. Hell, in a perfect world, we wouldn't need police, much less weapons. In a slightly less fantastic scenario, all the police would be ninja masters who could disarm anyone with the flick of a wrist. In the real world, they're just regular joes and with luck, regular joes with pretty good training.

Sometimes, they fuck up. Sometimes, they do so in a way that should be prosecuted. What this latest incident was remains to be seen.

And yes, there are definitely alternatives, but for any of them to be reasonable would require that we have saner gun policy in this country.
posted by wierdo at 9:13 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Aiming for the leg/arm is just not a reasonable expectation.

That said, 5-6 rounds into a fleeing man who turns out to be unarmed but carrying an "unspecified metal object" sounds hella sketch. If under adrenalized circumstances this is what their fucking training is coming up with, their training fucking sucks. And that's the best-case scenario.

Just because you're aiming for center mass doesn't mean you should be shooting the guy in the first place.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:35 PM on November 9, 2010


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