“Another cop got off easy.”
That is undoubtedly the feeling of many people in Oakland after Johannes Mehserle, a former police officer for the Bay Area Rapid Transit subway system, was found guilty Thursday of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old unarmed man who was lying face down on a subway platform with another officer’s knee in his back when a single bullet was pumped into his back.
The year-old case was fraught with racial tensions. Mehserle, 28, is white, and Grant, 22, is Black. The case was so volatile that it was moved to Los Angeles, where a 13-person jury – minus any African Americans – deliberated for 6 ½ hours before rendering the verdict.
For prosecutors, the case was clear: an armed cop shot an unarmed man in the back, and the shooting was captured on the cellphones of various witnesses. But Mehserle testified that he thought he didn’t even have his gun, and thought he had grabbed his Taser to disable Grant.
Excuse me? How in the world can a police officer, trained to use a loaded gun, filled with bullets that can kill someone, with a taser gun that fires electricity through a person’s body?
Mehserle clearly didn’t want to be found guilty of second degree murder and he took a huge risk by testifying in his own behalf. But his rationale is unbelievable, and nonsensical. But it worked, and that’s a shame.
What’s so sad is that this isn’t the first time we have seen racial tensions rise up involving a police force. And all too often, members of the Black community feel that police officers are quick to pull a gun on African Americans, and when the wounds are fatal, the cops seems to always get off.
Think about it, when was the last time a police officer was sent to prison for fatally shooting an unarmed man?
The struggle to establish trust between the black community and the police has been a difficult one over the years. And these cases don’t help. It bothers me that folks in some communities have an anti-snitching philosophy, but it’s hard to get anyone to trust a cop when the prevailing view is that if something bad happens, the officer will more than likely get off.
When community activists shout “No justice, no peace,” at rallies, how can anyone say they are wrong when Mehserle is getting anywhere from two to four years for killing an unarmed man? Yes, he was found guilty and will go to prison, but is that sufficient justice?
On every level, this verdict hurts. Grant did nothing wrong. He was on the ground with another officer’s knee in his back. And Mehserle shot him in the back unnecessarily. He should have gone to prison for murder. Pure and simple.