Johannes Mehserle (1982- ) – sounds like Mezzer-lee – is the white killer cop who shot Oscar Grant dead in the first hours of 2009. Grant, an unarmed black man, was laying face down when Mehserle shot him in the back. The police were arresting him and his friends for their part in a drunken fight on a BART train coming back to Oakland on New Year’s from San Francisco.
Some on the train recorded video with their mobile phones. Soon it was on YouTube and the whole world knew.
Mehserle fled California. Two weeks later he was arrested on suspicion of murder. The bail was set at $3 million. The police union put up the money and a week later he was back out on the street, though no longer on duty as a police officer.
His court costs were paid for by the Peace Officers Research Association of California. No underpaid, overworked public defender for him.
Mehserle wept on the stand. Oscar Grant’s mother, whom Mehserle had never apologized to, got up and walked out. Tim Killings, an Oscar Grant supporter, shouted, “Save those fucking tears” – and was arrested for contempt of court, spending three days in jail.
Mehserle said the shooting was an accident – that he meant to use his Taser not his gun.
That seems unlikely:
- his Taser was way lighter than his gun,
- it is kept on the left side for a cross-body draw (Mehserle is right-handed),
- BART officers receive six hours of Taser training,
- and, most damning of all, it is shot with one hand, not the two hands Mehserle used to shoot a gun – and used to shoot Grant.
He said he thought Grant was reaching for a gun.
Despite the three other police officers present at the time, all the recorded video and the paperwork he had to fill out that day about the whole thing, there is no record of his intending to use a Taser till a day later.
The jury believed him. The jury was mostly white without a single black person on it. So instead of murder, they found him guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
The judge gave him the lightest sentence possible: two years. And he even gave him double credit for time already served. Mehserle was out on parole in June 2011 after serving 11 months.
- When Cory Maye, a black man in Mississippi, shot and killed a white policeman and said it was an accident, he was put on death row.
- Grant’s uncle, Cephus Johnson, compared it to Michael Vick: “If a man goes to prison for killing a dog and he gets four years, then of course two years is not enough.”
Mehserle is the first policeman in the history of California even to be charged with killing someone while on duty, much less found guilty.
Every year in America over 200 people are killed by the police, mostly blacks and Latinos. Not just young men but even old women. In most cases only the police are doing any shooting.