January 14, 2009

Former BART officer in New Year's Day shooting arrested on murder charges

Just as I thought, Johannes Mehserle, the former BART police officer who fatally shot an unarmed man on the platform at Oakland's Fruitvale BART station was arrested on suspicion of murder, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Mehserle, who until recently had been living in Lafayette with his girlfriend and new baby, was arrested Tuesday in Douglas County, Nevada. He was arrested in connection with the New Year's Day shooting of Oscar Grant, 22, who was lying facedown on the platform after being pulled off a BART train by police investigating a disturbance.

You can read more about Mehserle's arrest here. According to various accounts, Mehrsele had resigned from the force, rather than talk to internal affairs investigators. He had also been living in various locations, due to death threats that he and his family had received.

The arrest warrant, charging Mehserle with murder, was signed by an Alameda County judge.

I'm not saying that the murder charge isn't appropriate, given that Grant was unarmed and his shooting, as it appears on videos recorded by BART passengers and widely disseminated through the media, looks like an execution. On the other hand, there is some speculation that Mehserle thought he had grabbed his Taser, not his service weapon. According to that theory, he just wanted to stun Grant, not shoot him, and certainly not kill him. Grant's killing, in that scenario, was not an execution, but a tragic accident, committed by an officer who had just been on the force for two years.

Whether or not the murder charge is appropriate, I'm just saying that I'm not surprised that authorities are throwing the book at Mehserle, given that this case is highly charged and politically sensitive. In an earlier post, I said I expected him to be charged with murder, while also admitting that I do feel sorry for Mehserle. BART police and the Alameda County District Attorney's office faced a lot of criticism for appearing to drag their feet on the investigation. This "execution-like" shooting, as well as the perception that authorities weren't taking it seriously enough, provoked public outrage with mass rioting breaking out in downtown Oakland last week.

The Chronicle reports that Mehserle's attorney wouldn't comment on the case until a news conference later today. Maybe, then, we'll learn more about what was in Mehserle's mind during the incident and when he tried to subdue Grant by firing into his back.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I also think the murder charges are politically motivated. Cops and DA fX&CK#D up and now seeking to redeem themselves. Really, why would a cop fire a gun at unarmed suspect. He made a very tragic error. Manslaughter at worst.