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Archive for the ‘blue on black crime’ Category

oscar_grantOscar Grant III (1986-2009) was killed in the early hours of January 1st 2009 by the police of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART, the trains of the San Francisco bay). He was shot in the back by police officer Johannes Mehserle. When Grant was shot he was face down on the ground, unarmed and, just before he was shot, had a knee in his back. You can see it (kind of) on YouTube.

Why was Grant shot?

Some say it was all a mistake, that Mehserle thought he was pulling out his Taser to stun Grant but pulled out his gun by mistake.

Others say it was because Grant was black and a black man, even face down on the ground with a knee in his back, is still somehow a deadly threat. Grant is just the latest in a long line of unarmed black men killed by the police. Sean Bell was the latest well-known one in New York. There are too few white ones to think that race has nothing to do with it, to think that they are all “mistakes”.

Some in the press have been quick to point out that Grant has a police record and has been to prison. As if that somehow makes a difference in this case.

Mehserle has not been charged with any crime. He has left the police force and does not speak to the press. Grant’s family is taking him to court for $25 million in damages in a wrongful death lawsuit.

The video that we have comes from the mobile phones of the passengers on the stopped train. Right after the shooting, the train doors were closed and the police took many of the phones, but they did not get them all. There is also video from the BART cameras in the station. That video has not been made public.

There have been protests in Oakland. One march on city hall turned violent, burning cars and breaking shop windows.

Oakland is across the bay from San Francisco. It is a mixed race city of 400,000. For cities of its size it has one of the highest murder rates in the country. Black men in Oakland are being killed and thrown in prison in high numbers. Bill Cosby says it is due to a lack of a moral upbringing on the part of blacks.

John McWhorter would call the shooting, at worst, an “imperfection” of post-racial America.

Grant and his friends were coming home from a night in San Francisco to bring in the new year. A fight broke out on the train. When it arrived in the Fruitvale station, the police stopped the train and pulled off Grant and some of his friends. They did everything the police told them to do.

Grant, 22, worked in the meat department at Farmer Joe’s Marketplace. He lived with his girlfriend and their four-year-old daughter. He has served time in prison for selling drugs but seemed to have been setting his life straight.

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Sean Bell (1983-2006) was shot dead in 2006 by the New York police. They shot 50 bullets at him and his two friends. Like with Amadou Diallo, shot dead by the New York police in 1999 with 41 bullets, Bell was unarmed and black. And, like with Diallo, the police were found innocent of any crime and walked free.

The stories told of that night do not add up or make sense. This is my best sense of it:

On that night Bell and two of his friends, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield, walked out of Club Kahlua, a bikini bar in Jamaica, Queens. They had taken him there for his bachelor party – Bell was getting married the next day.

Bell was drunk. Outside the bar he got into an argument with a pimp. The pimp acted like he had a gun to threaten them, so Guzman, one of Bell’s friends, said “Yo, get my gun, get my gun.” He did not have one – he was trying to get the pimp to back down.

Bell and his two friends went to his car and got in.

The next thing they know a man appears with a gun drawn. Bell drove forward but the way was blocked by a minivan. He knocked over the gunman and ran into the minivan. He tried to back up – still no good: that way was blocked too.

The gunman got back up and opened fire. He shot 11 bullets. He looked like he was out of his mind. Then four other men appeared, one shot 8 bullets and another one shot 31 bullets.

Bell died, his two friends lived. Guzman still has four bullets in him. They were completely unarmed. Bell was 23. His wife-to-be came to the hospital, on what was to be her wedding day, and found him dead.

The gunmen, as it turned out, had nothing to do with the pimp, as far as we know. They were undercover New York policemen. They were there to arrest a prostitute but then overheard the dispute between Bell and the pimp.

They said they were afraid that Bell and his friends were going to drive back and shoot the pimp. So they blocked his way.

The first gunman, Gescard Isnora, said he opened fire because he saw Guzman reach for his gun. Except that Guzman had no gun. Feeling threatened Isnora and two other policemen, Michael Oliver and Marc Cooper, shot off eight rounds.

Oliver was white, Isnora and Cooper were black. Oliver shot most of the bullets. He even reloaded.

The case went to court. The prosecution was played by the Queens district attorney’s office. I say “played” because they depend on the police and cannot be expected to put up a strong case against them. That is why the policemen walked free. It did not help that the judge believed the police over Sean Bell’s friends.

While it is true that two of the policemen were black in this case, it is mighty curious how only unarmed black men get pumped full of bullets by the police and not, say, unarmed white men or Korean grocers.

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