Thursday, January 15, 2009

How Did We Get Here?

"Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak whispers the o'er-fraught heart and bids it break."

William Shakespeare

It's winter. And for some reason winter seems to bring the blues, even if the sun is shining everyday. I have been a little blue lately, even as we have been experiencing the record setting warmth here in the Bay Area. Why? Good question. I am not sure why. I have some a couple ideas though. It could be that Inauguration Day can't come soon enough for me. I am still going to sleep every night grinding my teeth in anger at what Bush has done to America, and the insidious way he is trying to rewrite history. But that isn't the only thing on my mind, and this entry isn't about him.

Something happened here in the Bay Area a couple weeks ago, that I am not sure has gotten the nationwide attention it probably should have. I touched on it a few entries back. A young man named, Oscar Grant, was on his way home from San Francisco in the wee hours of January 1st, when a fight broke out between two groups of young men while riding BART. The fight was responded to by BART police, who broke up the fighting, then proceeded to arrest the men accordingly. The next events are somewhat mysterious and tragic. During the process of arrest, Oscar Grant was shot in the back, and killed, by a BART police officer, Johannes Mehserle.

There have been many, many amateur videos of the shooting playing on every news channel since the beginning of January. Taken, of course, from different perspectives around the BART station where the incident occurred. They show what happened from different angles, and different time frames. Oscar Grant was laying face down on the platform, with his hands behind his back, and another BART police officer bending down next to him. He was well restrained and not resisting arrest. But in one of the clearest videos, you could see clearly that Officer Mehserle pulled out his gun, pointed it at Oscar Grant, and pulled the trigger. Oscar Grant died a few hours later.

What happened? Why did Officer Mehserle pull the trigger? Did he snap? Did he make a mistake? Or was it a case of cold blooded murder? The videos don't tell you his side of the story. But make no mistake. There was one. We just have to get to it. The video is strong evidence against him. It was unthinkable. After I viewed it I immediately felt angry and sick that something like that had happened. I was just as outraged as everyone else in the Bay Area as the investigation seemed to drag along, with very few answers being offered. BART did not handle things well. Not well at all. And the family and friends have had to endure the pain of losing a son, boyfriend, friend, father, at the age of 22. What a way to begin 2009!

Mr. Mesherle was arrested a couple days ago in Zephyr Cove Nevada. The police knew where to find him, and there is no indication he tried to run. In fact, he went with the arresting officers peacefully. The evening news showed a clip the his extradition hearing, and I had expected to see a monster walk into the courtroom, based on what I had seen for myself through the videos on the news, but the young man who walked into that courtroom was anything but a monster. He was shackled, and visibly shaken. He stood tall, but had a child like innocence to him. He had a look on his face, which I believe was genuine. It seemed to say, how did I get here? What happened? I don't understand. Mr. Mesherle is just 27, making him just 5 years older then the man he shot.

No one understands the death of a 22 year old. No matter how it happens. No one understands the cowardly act of shooting a person in the back. No matter why. No one understands murder. Justice is very often misunderstood. How to give it and how to achieve it. Mr. Mesherle will be in an Oakland courtroom later today to face charges of murder. Time will tell to what degree of murder it will be. Some things are certain at this point. An unlawful killing took place at the hands of Mr. Mesherle. Two tragedies took place that night. Two families have lost a son in their 20's and every ones life is a little different right now. How this will play out is anybodies guess, because so far only one side of the story is apparent. I want to know more.

Why did he pull his weapon on an unarmed, restrained man? There is an answer to that question, but for the life of me I can't think of what it might be. In the meantime there is grief all around. Two peaceful protests regarding this case, have been turned upside down by rioting, resulting in multiple businesses being vandalized by splinter groups of the original peaceful protest planners. How damaging businesses that have nothing to do with the case completely escapes me. But there are opportunists everywhere I suppose. All I know is that the actions of those involved in the rioting amounts to an injustice, which is strange, because isn't that what the peaceful protest is pleading for? Justice? But I wonder, considering what's happened, can there be justice at this point?

Oscar Grant's life is over. Mr. Mesherle is facing years, maybe more like decades in prison if convicted. Can he get a fair trial under the circumstances? Are there 12 people out there right now who haven't seen the video for themselves? What happened? Why? My heart goes out to the family of Oscar Grant, and to the parents of Mr. Mesherle, who woke up this morning to a bomb threat. Why hurt his parents because of his actions? It is all so sad. No matter what, life will be forced to go on, and we may never know what happened, or why Oscar Grant had to die.

:( {{{WEEP}}}

ABC 7 Video Page (Several videos of different aspects of the case are available)

"In Janaury"
San Francisco, California

1 comment:

fdtate said...

What a sad story! So needless. Watching the video and others that I've seen, it appears like the officer made a horrible mistake. From his reaction and the reactions of the other officers, it looks like they were all totally surprised by what happened. I've heard the explanation that he was reaching for his TASER and pulled his gun instead. That seems likely. I hope that was the case.