On January 1, 2009, just two hours after midnight, Oscar Grant, just like any other person was out celebrating new year with his friends. His 4 year old daughter and mother were at home. On his way back from San Francisco on a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Train to East Bay, Fruitvale Station, he got involved in a scuffle with some members in the train. The train operator radioed the BART police within the station which was located in a Black-Latino neighbourhood.
BART Police arrived on the scene and immediately targeted the Black youth even though they had no description of who was responsible. Officer Pirone grabbed a few, banged on the train window, pointed his taser gun at Oscar and his friend Michael ordering them to get off the train.
As soon as they got off, they were beaten up. Michael was pulled by his hair and hammered on the concrete face down. An other friend started shouting “why are you doing that? what did we do?”. Pirone then got hold of Oscar and slammed him against the wall. A few more cops came and threatened with their taser guns yelling and swearing using the ‘N’ word and more. When a few of Oscar’s friends got off to protest, they too received the same treatment.
They were made to lean against the wall as people in the train had already started to film the whole incident shouting and protesting against the officers. Oscar fell and was sitting down arguing.
Officer Mehserle, another cop at the scene started trashing the guy next to Oscar attempting to handcuff him. That is when Oscar rose to protest. Immediately, Pirone pushed him to the ground threatening to tase him. Pirone forcefully placed his knee on Oscar’s neck. People in the train were screaming asking him to let go. The officers had pinned Oscar who was lying face down shouting for mercy pleading not to be tased.
It did not stop here. Both Pirone and Mehserle acted ruthlessly. Oscar was resisting being handcuffed and Mehserle was holding Oscar’s arms behind his back. Mehserle asked Pirole to get back, reached for his gun and shot Oscar in the back.
The .40 calibre bullet from Mehserle’s gun entered through Oscar’s back, exited through his front, ricocheted off the concrete floor instantly puncturing Oscar’s lungs. Oscar screamed, “you shot me! I got a 4 year old daughter”.
Oscar died 7 hours later in the hospital. Police brutality and racial profiling led to his death.
What followed was public outrage, violent protests, riots and vandalism. Over $200,000 was caused by rioters in damage destroying public property, shops, setting cars on fire and around 300 businesses were affected.
After a series of drama in the court room and after several trials, Officer Johaness Mehserle was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. He was not found guilty of murder. He served one year in prison for a two year sentence upsetting supporters and family members of Oscar Grant.
Here is a link of the video captured on cell phone by one of the passenger who was recording with several others:
Fruitvale Station is now a movie adapted from real life events. Though I have not seen the movie yet, I hear it is very gripping and is a film that has received euphoric reviews. It is also the winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. The movie, reportedly opens with a few footages of the real life incident which is quite disturbing.