Criminal Justice

A (Mild) Defense of the Cop in the BART Shooting

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So after looking at the videos several times, I have to dissent from the chorus calling for the head of Johannes Mehserle, the cop who shot and killed Oscar Grant at an Oakland BART station two weeks ago.

Mehserle's body language after he fires the shot to me indicates panic and confusion, not satisfaction at having just carried out a deliberate execution, as some local politicians have portrayed it. I find the explanation that Mehserle thought he he had grabbed his taser to be not only plausible, but likely.

That doesn't mean Mehserle should get off.  He's clearly at fault. Whatever line of work he finds next, a portion of his paycheck should go to Oscar Grant's family for the rest of Mehserle's life. That should probably go for the people who trained him, too (though that isn't going to happen).  Moreover, Mehserle should never wear a badge again. Oscar Grant's death will either haunt him for the rest of his life, or it won't. In either case, it disqualifies him from being a cop. If it's determined that there was no reason for Mehserle to draw his taser (Grant appears to be handcuffed and on his stomach in the videos), then he's guilty of excessive force, and a manslaughter charge might be appropriate.

The police should be held to a higher standard than those of us without a badge. As Glenn Reynolds points out in the post Nick Gillespie put up earlier, the courts unfortunately seem to hold them to a lower one. The doctrine of qualified immunity, which affords police officers (and other government employees) protection from negligence not afforded to those of us who don't get a government paycheck, is another example.

That said, there seems to be a mob-fueled rush to pin a murder charge on this guy. Given the videos, it just doesn't seem warranted to me. Speaking as a journalist who has reported on plenty of aggravating stories where bad cops got off scot-free, Mehserle shouldn't have to suffer the accumulated anger of all of those stories. He should be charged for what he did, nothing more.

At the same time, I'd pose this question to the Mehserle defenders I've seen on police forums and bulletin boards: I'm sympathetic to the argument that in the heat of the moment, Mehserle inadvertently reached for the wrong weapon. But Mehserle had training. He had other cops there backing him up. If we're going to be sympathetic to him, where's the sympathy for people like Cory Maye or Ryan Frederick?

Why should we assume good intentions when a cop with training, wide awake and conscious, with other cops all around him makes a mistake that ends with a fatality, but assume the worst when a civilian is awoken by the sound of police breaking into his home, and in the heat of the moment, fires a gun after mistaking them for criminal intruders? 

Seems to me you can't simultaneously argue that trained police officers should be forgiven for nervous mistakes made in the heat of the moment, but ordinary people should be expected to show impeccable judgment and restraint, even under unimaginably volatile and confrontational circumstances.

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  1. “Why should we assume good intentions when a cop with training, wide awake and conscious, with other cops all around him makes a mistake that ends with a fatality, but assume the worst when a civilian is awoken by the sound of police breaking into his home, and in the heat of the moment, fires a gun after mistaking them for criminal intruders?”

    Very good point here!

  2. That said, there seems to be a mob-fueled rush to pin a murder charge on this guy. Given the videos, it just doesn’t seem warranted to me. Speaking as a journalist who has reported on plenty of aggravating stories where bad cops got off scot-free, Mehserle shouldn’t have to suffer the accumulated anger of all of those stories. He should be charged for what he did, nothing more.

    Let’s say he was going for a taser. That means he was attempting to tase an already restrained subject. That’s outside of policy, and so is by definition aggravated assault (with a weapon). So, while intending to commit one crime, he instead accidentally killed his target, committing another.

    I’m no lawyer, but if you are attempting or in the midst of committing a crime and your actions during that series of events causes a person’s death, isn’t that an *aggravating* circumstance, not a *mitigating* one?

  3. Watch the video again, Radley. There is no confusion, no looking for explanation, no panic at a likely-to-be-fatal mistake. The officer fires the weapon, then calmly reholsters it.

    That is NOT what a normal human being would do after accidentally shooting someone. The officer was in complete control of himself, and the situation.

    CB

  4. We’ve had this discussion previously. There is no way you are going to mistake a taser for a gun. NO WAY. Guns are heavy, metal, and carried on your strong side. Tasers are light, plastic, and carried on the weak side. Just massively, massively different. And on top of all that, he had no plausible reason to draw either weapon in the first place.

    Fuck him. He killed a pinned down man. Even if he fucked up, a whole host of utterly wrong decisions by him are responsible. Cops have to pay for these things, and hard, or they will get even worse.

  5. If it’s determined that there was no reason for Mehserle to draw his taser (Grant appears to be handcuffed and on his stomach in the videos), then he’s guilty of excessive force, and a manslaughter charge might be appropriate.

    He was not handcuffed.

    But otherwise, I think you are about right on the charges.

    LMNOP: I am not clear that “outside policy” on use of force is such a clear line to “by definition aggravated assault (with a weapon).”

    I agree this guy needs to be charged, but manslaughter seems a reasonable charge…

    http://www.shouselaw.com/voluntary_manslaughter.html

    No?

  6. That is NOT what a normal human being would do after accidentally shooting someone. The officer was in complete control of himself, and the situation.

    To be fair (a luxury not often afforded by cops to anyone else), people react to psychological stress in all sorts of ways. There is no way to know how Mr. Mehserle does, and even if we had some sort of baseline, the stress of shooting a guy is way off the charts of most people’s stress scale.

    The mind is a fucked up thing.

  7. Does the case fit these criteria?

    here are three degrees of manslaughter, which carry different punishments. Voluntary manslaughter is an intentional killing that happened either because of “adequate provocation” or in an unreasonable attempt at self-defense. A voluntary manslaughter conviction carries a sentence of 3 to 11 years in prison. Involuntary manslaughter is an unintentional killing that happened during the commission of a misdemeanor or because of gross negligence (carelessness). Involuntary manslaughter carries a sentence of 2 to 4 years.

    http://www.wklaw.com/areas-violent-crimes.html

  8. LMNOP: I am not clear that “outside policy” on use of force is such a clear line to “by definition aggravated assault (with a weapon).”

    Qualified immunity only covers acts undertaken whole following the rules and policies outlined by the job. Outside those rules, the guy is (or at least *should be*) treated just like any other asshole who decided to tase a guy. That’s aggravated assault.

  9. NM —

    There is no sign of provocation, nor any evidence he was in any danger such that he could believe he needed to act in his own physical defense.

    So, um…no.

  10. LMNOP,

    I am not as sure as you seem to be of the facts here, but it seems to fit comfortably into “gross negligence” at least, but may fall more comfortably into the category “an unreasonable attempt at self-defense.”

    Unreasonable for the reasons you cite.

  11. Can a person “attempt self-defense” if they aren’t being attacked?

    FWIW, I’m not sure of anything. But I saw the same video everyone else did. Is Mr. Mersehle under attack in that video?

  12. LMNOP,

    To be clear, I think the shooter is in the wrong here and had no justification to shoot. But, it seems there are levels of culpability and I am not sure this rises to the level of 1st degree murder.

    On the videos…I am surprised by people who say he wasn’t “struggling.” To me it looks like he was.

    Because a cop is allowed to use escalating levels of force to get compliance, this incident is more complicated than a non-cop shooting.

    His use of force to get compliance was unreasonable and resulted in someone’s death…that seems like voluntary manslaughter.

  13. I’m not at all sympathetic to the argument that in the heat of the moment he murdered someone he only meant to torture.

    Surely Mr. Balko can’t believe that if the victim had been killed by a mere peasant and not one of our high and mighty lords and master that the killer would _not_ have been charged with murder immediately.

  14. LMNOP,

    To clarify a bit.

    It seems to me that the law works mainly by analogy.

    Absent a specific policy on how to handle excessive force by police resulting in death, it seems excessive force leading to death is most similar to unreasonable attempt at self-defense.

    Now, given the vagueness of 2nd degree murder (unlawful killing), it is certainly easy to put together a case that this killing was unlawful like other killings were unlawful.

    Hmmm….

  15. Now, given the vagueness of 2nd degree murder (unlawful killing), it is certainly easy to put together a case that this killing was unlawful like other killings were unlawful.

    Given the little we know at this point, this is where I would go with it. I don’t know if California Law allows charging with lesser includeds, but if it did it would be appropriate to charge with 2nd degree murder, with an option for the jury to go down to voluntary manslaughter, *if the subsequent facts are ambiguous enough to warrant it*.

  16. LMNOP,

    Sounds workable also.

    Of course, there is, as a prosecutor, the calculation as to whether too strict a charge is more likely to lead to a “not guilty” while the lesser charge may stick.

  17. To reiterate some points I’ve made earlier:

    The people, acting in riotous mobs, should *not* have influence on policy.

    The people, acting as grand jurors, should have the right to bring anyone to trial whom they believe to have committed a crime. The approval of a government employee (whether called a “district attorney” or otherwise) should *not* be required.

    If Oakland grand jurors had the right of presentment, without waiting from some official’s say-so, the cop could have been indicted by now, without a wait which allowed him to get to Nevada.

    The law gives a prosecution official – a *representative* of the people – veto power over the decisions of the people themselves – which is what grand jurors are.

    Now the guy’s charged, his fate should be decided with the rules of criminal procedure, including full recognition of the rights of defendants.

    The demands of rioting mobs, indignant bloggers, and posturing politicians should not be allowed to get around the presumption of innocence as far as the criminal case is concerned.

    Of course, that doesn’t mean the guy has to stay on the public payroll. There is a lesser standard for removing a public official from a job where he f*d up.

  18. The people, acting in riotous mobs, should *not* have influence on policy.

    While I basically agree with you, it raises the point:

    Who does policy truly pertain to, if not the mob of the masses? The “mob” is, in no uncertain terms, the people. What was it that Nietzsche said? The coldest of all cold lies is the substitution of the state for the people. Without the state, mob is an adequate description, is it not?

  19. I know I’ve asked this before, but who on earth would name their kid Radley?

  20. Anyone who carries a gun regularly and can’t tell the difference in the feel of a Taser grip from the grip of their sidearm quite obviously isn’t spending much time holding either one. I find the “thought he grabbed his Taser” argument to be completely ridiculous.

    The sights are different. The top looks different. The grip feels different. Sorry, don’t buy it.

    Anyone who doesn’t spend a fair amount of time handling firearms and feels differently about this really needs to give it a try and see why it is so implausible that one could be mistaken for the other when held in the hand (and sighted over).

  21. Radley’s a cop apologist.

    Time to arrange my dog’s wedding to my cat.

  22. LMNOP,

    The “mob” is, in no uncertain terms, the people.

    What’s that J. Adams quote: the very definition of a republic is an empire of laws, and not of men…

  23. What’s that J. Adams quote: the very definition of a republic is an empire of laws, and not of men…

    But of course the ultimate joke is that the laws are created by the men.

  24. Radley’s a cop apologist.

    Time to arrange my dog’s wedding to my cat.

    It can hardly be called an apology.

  25. Color me dumbfounded. I respect Mr Balko way too much to think he believes the ‘dagnabit, I done thought that was a Taser’ argument.

    Currently the most likely explanation in my mind is that Juanita stole Radley’s password.

  26. Let me explain it to you real slow-like, Mr. Balko.

    Tasering a handcuffed guy = felony.

    Accidentally killing someone during a felony = felony murder.

    then again the still picture of Mehserle on the night in question seems to show him with no taser on his cross-draw hip. IOW, duh.

  27. O, and there may be cases where it is appropriate that CA gets rid of the felony-murder rule. This one ain’t it.

  28. Not to mention the fact that it is totally inapp to even raise the possibility that Mehserle meant to draw his (non-existant) taser until he at least says so. DUUUUUUh doesn’t even begin 2 cover it.

  29. Dave W. —

    God knows how many times this has been repeated, but he wasn’t handcuffed. He wasn’t handcuffed. He wasn’t handcuffed.

    He was restrained by officers and struggling. Not, you know, a lot, but still.

    No handcuffs.

    Not that that changes much.

  30. I beg to differ:

    [IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v226/farces/mehserle.jpg[/IMG]

  31. This is exactly what trials are for. To determine what someone is guilty of.

    A prosecutor, if he/she were so inclined, might find it difficult to prove premeditation. Even if the taser arugument is bullshit, the confusion and intensity of the situation could have certainly clouded the man’s judgment. (Not that that is an excuse. It isn’t.) Aggravated manslaughter with a sentence of 5 to 10 sounds about right to me.
    He won’t get much more than that, IMO.

  32. You’ve got a lot of stones, Radley.

  33. Arent’ cops supposed to be carefully trained, like soldiers, to avoid panic and confusion? I am concerned about the quality of the people that get into law enforcement.

    I’d rather see the jury go heavy on the penalty rather than light, in the hopes that police in other places will pay attention.

  34. I think the cop pulls the gun more as a subconscious way to take control of the situation. With what I assume is a rather large, hostile and mostly inebriated crowd verbally abusing the cops, that guy is probably in a panicked state of mind and pulls his gun out with his finger on the trigger. Don’t think he meant to kill him because he had nothing to gain from it, however his actions seem to me to be at least worthy of voluntary manslaughter, though I would not be surprised if he gets involuntary because he’s a cop.

  35. I’d rather see the jury go heavy on the penalty rather than light, in the hopes that police in other places will pay attention.

    Justice or not, I sincerely doubt a heavy verdict would have *this* effect.

    Also, looking at the video again, I really can’t tell if there are handcuffs or not. Huh.

  36. Also, looking at the video again, I really can’t tell if there are handcuffs or not. Huh.

    Then study the still and then go back to the vid.

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v226/farces/mehserle.jpg

    IOW, duh.

  37. Justice or not, I sincerely doubt a heavy verdict would have *this* effect.

    Really? You don’t think so? Police must–must–pay the same price as the rest of us or they will continue to think of themselves as above the law.

  38. Not excusing the actions of the BART cop, but for all of y’all saying that there is no way to mistake a gun for a Taser, I’d like y’all to know it has happened before.
    Sorry I can’t give you specifics but I’ve seen video of it happing during a CLE regarding developing risk mangement polcies for police departments. Yes there are differnce between the weight and sights on the two but with stress and all mistakes happen. And yes cops are suppose to keep the tasers on the weak side, but some don’t thinking they’ll be able to tell the differnce between the two in a quick draw.
    Now none of this excuses the actions in this case, the cop shouldn’t have tasered the guy if that was his intentnion. This guy should never be in uniform again. And if it is true that he thought he was taseing the guy, he should still be charged with and convicted of manslaughter, because his negligence still cause the death of a person.

  39. Epi —

    And if the hammer gets dropped they just go into “Blue against the word” siege mode. You can’t make people better. I would have thought a lifetime of reading sci-fi, classics and theology would have taught you that by now.

  40. Drop the “duh” shit, Dave. It doesn’t help anything, and makes everything you say half as credible and twice as annoying.

  41. He either wasn’t handcuffed or the police got the handcuffs off in a hurry:

    See video here

    See how his hands flop to the floor after he is rolled by the police onto his side?

    Also, look at the shooter’s face after the shot is fired. He looks at his partner, then down at the floor and then back at his partner then starts moving again. It really does look like he was going through an Oh Shit moment.

  42. And if the hammer gets dropped they just go into “Blue against the word” siege mode.

    They aren’t there now? I’m assuming you are drunk or stoned (enjoy), because you don’t usually make mistakes like having “word” for “world”. They are already in siege mode. Talk to a pig, and you will see that.

    They must be hurt as much as possible. That is all that can make a difference.

  43. See how his hands flop to the floor after he is rolled by the police onto his side?

    Someine is blowing for BigCop.

  44. Incidentally, Dave W. You are in no position to imply people are stupid for coming to different conclusions than you when looking at a murky photo.

    You tend to force facts to fit the first theory you glom onto (like your infamous assertion that the U.S. shot down flight 93 with invisible missiles that aren’t publicly acknowledged to exist but must exist because the U.S. air force would never leave the U.S. vulnerable to a nuclear attack by the Cuban government using bombers disguised as commercial aircraft and that any veteran who doubts this line of logic is one of the gullible people the millitary actively goes out to recruit because they are more likely to follow orders). Couple that with your notorious rudeness and self importance, and it’s no wonder that few people have any patience for you.

    If you ever want people to respect you, you might want to tone down your rudeness and actually try to engage in a little critical thinking with a dollop of self-doubt.

  45. i respectfully disagree mr. balko.

    too many cops have shot too many victims without any provocation whatsoever, and in the rare instances when a guy in his own house minding his own business shoots someone breaking in and it turns out to be a cop, it’s always a capital murder charge. even if he was just reaching for a taser, which i don’t believe, a murder conviction against johannes mehserle would have a salutary deterrent effect on other cops who now feel free to tase nonthreatening citizens, you know, the same kind of deterrence that cory maye’s death sentence represents for citizens defending their homes. sometimes you roll the dice and it comes up snake eyes.

  46. They aren’t there now? I’m assuming you are drunk or stoned (enjoy)

    That’s tomorrow. 🙂

    …because you don’t usually make mistakes like having “word” for “world”.

    Typing in the dark, S.O. is sleeping.

    They are already in siege mode. Talk to a pig, and you will see that.[…]They must be hurt as much as possible. That is all that can make a difference.

    No. What would make a difference would be real systemic changes. Citizen review boards, public information campaigns, de-mythologizing the boys in blue, breaking the Police Unions, and taking a long, hard look at force policy.

    Beating on cops will no doubt be satisfying, but all it really achieves is retrenchment. (Fuck, it’s like Gaza is almost the perfect metaphor.) The riots were useful because they dragged the fucker onto page one. Once there the conversation *cannot* be “fuck the pigs”, because that turns off everyone on the fence. It has to be a sober conversation about reform and policy.

    Or revolution. But you know how that shit can go. There’s a Soderburgh movie about that just released…

  47. At the risk of kissing ass…

    Considering all the work Radley’s done investigating reprehensible acts by police, prosecutors, etc., I’m impressed he can approach this video so thoughtfully and fair-mindedly.

  48. bruce,

    So even if the cop isn’t guilty of murder, he should be punished as if he is, because of the unpunished crimes of other cops?

    Hmm, let’s do some substitutions to the above paragraph: s/cop/black man/g s/mans/men/g s/murder/rape/g

    So even if the black man isn’t guilty of rape, he should be punished as if he is, because of the unpunished crimes of other black men?

    Dude, punishing people for the crimes of others is utterly uncivilized. I think you had better rethink your position.

  49. Any of you guys remember the times when tasers were advertised as gun replacements that cops would fire only where they would have used lethal force otherwise?

    Tasers can kill… and the alleged confusion should be no excuse.

  50. Mehserle shouldn’t have to suffer the accumulated anger of all of those stories. He should be charged for what he did, nothing more.

    Nothing more, nothing less.

    And he should be prosecuted just as aggressively as any “civilian” who pulled out his pistol and killed somebody who pissed him off.

  51. tarran, police violence is a systemic problem, as is overcharging home defenders who happen to shoot an invading swat team member. black rapists are not a systemic problem any more than white rapists, they are just sporadic occurrences, and i was a little bit surprised, and not in a good way, that the first analogy you reached for in this situation was black rapists.

    besides that, you don’t know that the cop isn’t guilty of murder. the prosecutor charged it, and we’ll just have to let the jury decide, won’t we?

  52. It is truly sad that this guy is likely to bear the punishment for all the guilty cops who got away with murder, but for which the evidence is not quite so clearly documented. It’s easy to see he made a mistake and was instantly regretful, however — he chose to be a cop, to put himself in confrontation situations that entailed by their nature an inequality of power. Certainly, the BART system and police academy who trained him should be the ones to bear the responsibility for what happened, at least as much as he will, but you’re right to suspect that they won’t. The angry mobs aren’t even capable of focussing their anger away from their own neighborhoods, let alone onto those who are truly responsible. They just want someone to lynch. Ironic that the angry mob, in this case, is mostly black.

  53. “They must be hurt as much as possible. That is all that can make a difference.”

    …the Gazans are trying this. Hows that working out for them?

  54. Radley, I understand your argument, but I can’t grasp how any lightly trained cop could not immediately tell the difference between a taser and a gun once the weapon is in his/her hand. They are different tools with different handles and grasps: its like the dif between holding a pen and pencil, heat of the moment or not. Plus, they are in different locations on the belt, and reaching for one weapon or the other is an automatic subconcious motion. Every carpenter knows the difference between his hammer and his tape measure. I just dont buy that mistake.

  55. then he’s guilty of excessive force, and a manslaughter charge might be appropriate.

    No, not might, it is appropriate. If I’m likkered up and cleanin’ my guns in the basement, and I start horsing around with my gun and I discharge it, and the round goes through the wall to the apartment and kills the old lady next door, I’m staring down a manslaughter charge.

    Google “accidental shooting” and “manslaughter”. The po-po doesn’t mess around with such things.

  56. If I accidentally shot a cop (meant to grab my ham sandwich but grabbed my legally-carried 9mm instead) and a video of the incident reflected that I showed shock and surprise at what happened (holy crap my sandwich fired a bullet!), I’d be tried for capital murder, convicted as a cop killer, and sentenced to death faster than you can say “double standard.”

    I can believe the BART cop accidentally grabbed his gun when he meant to grab his tazer. That’s the grossest of gross negligence.

    While I would not expect something like this to happen very often, it is yet another reason why I’m against giving cops “sub-lethal” weapons like Tazers. When cops are given such weapons, they have no clear rules of engagment and use them whenever doing so would plausibly make their job easier. I don’t like the idea of cops jolting citizens with tens of thousands of volts of electicity, over and over again (which puts an evil, satisfying grin on 99 out of 100 officers) just because they don’t want to get their hands dirty.

    I dont want police officers to be safer at the expense of the safety of the public at large. Being a cop is supposed to be a dangerous job. Every time a cop arrests someone, they are supposed to be putting themselves at some level of risk. If the cops are able to just take the lazy, safe way out by electrocuting all suspects to the grount to incapacitate them, then cops are nothing more than bully-cowards. You can be a brave hero and put your lfie in danger, or you can be a safe coward, but you can’t have it both ways.

    Cops should be given guns, and nothing more, and they should only be permitted to use the gun when their own lives, or the lives of innocent hostages/bystanders, are in clear and imminent danger. Giving a cop a second, “sublethal” option like a tazer means the cop will rely on it, and use it on everyone they arrest.

    Let’s face it, people become cops because they have low self esteem and they want power over other people; they were bullies (or bullied) in school, and they either like being bullies or they want to their chance to be the bully. People don’t become cops to bring about justice … they want to beat the crap out of people and ruin their lives to the greatest extent possible. Getting to electrocute people they don’t like has become the new big perk of the job. Take away the Tazers. If this incident will help in tht =at

  57. It doesn’t do anything to help this murder victim, but what if…

    A simple rule: A Law Enforcement Officer may carry EITHER a non-lethal weapon, OR a lethal-weapon. No Law Enforcement Officer may carry both.

    Problem prevented from reoccuring. Now, how to deal with THIS situation.

    CB

  58. If you ever want people to respect you, you might want to tone down your rudeness and actually try to engage in a little critical thinking with a dollop of self-doubt.

    You know, that is probably true now, now that you mention it.

    However, back in the murky past of 2005-07 I took a lot, lot worse than I ever gave. But I don’t get such a hard time here now as I used to, so it probably is time to be a bit nicer.

    That said:

    1. Flight 93 was still shot down; and

    2. T. still learns.

  59. I’d find it easier to accept the “He thought it was a taser” argument if the people who make it didn’t also try to convince me that the police here were facing a “large, hostile, supremely dangerous crowd”.

    Where do you see this?

    The police have a significant number of officers on scene. There are other officers guarding a completely secure perimeter as the suspects are being cuffed. The suspects themselves are passively sitting / squatting against a wall waiting to be arrested. The victim barely squirms while being cuffed – it’s more like he’s trying to not offer his hands in cooperation than anything else, and he doesn’t swing, roll, attempt to rise, try to bite, anything. If this is a “dangerous crowd environment” than any arrest witnessed by the public is a riot that justifies randomly shooting people who are lying face down on the ground.

  60. I would find it easier to accept the taser argument if:

    (i) the shooter put it in play by alleging that;

    and

    (ii) the shooter explained this pic:

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v226/farces/johannes_mehserlers.jpg

  61. “Never assume evil for what mere incompetence will explain.” As someone pointed out on the original thread, If this guy is evil enough to gun a defenseless man down in cold blood, he’s still rather incompetent for doing so in front of the many, many cameras and witnesses he had to know were around him.

    I’d say go with what we know (that he’s incompetent), and wait for corroborating evidence before pronouncing him evil.

  62. Giving a cop a second, “sublethal” option like a tazer means the cop will rely on it, and use it on everyone they arrest.

    Call me a traditionalist, but I’m OK with a cop carrying a gun and a nightstick.

    -jcr

  63. I don’t have time to read all the posts, so if I’m restating something please excuse it.

    You can see a lot from his subsequent actions to the shooting. Instead of making a statement, he quits the force, runs to another state. If it were a mistake issue, you would think that he would be proclaiming that loudly.

    When this first broke, I made a number of comments about how his actions made no sense, and mentioned that it might have been him reaching for a taser and fucking up.. I’ve actually gone the other way since. The more I watch it, it really seems that he just got frustrated, stood up and killed the guy. This guy needs to go to prison and stay there. If nothing else, as a “public servant” he had a moral obligation to explain his actions.

    That said, people who are making apologies for him are probably loathe to offer the same to a civilian. So, fuck them entirely, it is a point needing to be made

  64. WTF. The guy is not a real cop! If he were, his actions would still be reprehensible, and most likely illegal. As a barely deputized security guard for a non-public police force, he is a fricking murderer.

  65. Cracker’s Boy,

    Tasers are lethal weapons.

  66. Im going to sound like a broken record, but I feel it needs to be added to this thread:

    Putting your finger inside the trigger guard is a sign of premeditation. Modern quality firearms do not go off accidentally*. Murder 1.

    *Im sure there is the very rare mechanical defect. Rare enough to not lead to reasonable doubt without specific evidence that hasnt come out yet.

  67. Very shocked to see this post, though somewhat relieved to see you agree what he did rises to at least manslaughter.

  68. FWIW, I’m not sure of anything. But I saw the same video everyone else did. Is Mr. Mersehle under attack in that video?

    Now getting a chance to read some comments, this is the same point I made back when this came up. He had absolutely NO justification to draw a firearm. None, zip, nada. Not only does it require that the guy be under attack, he must be under attack with lethal force, or someone he’s protecting must. The alleged attacker is face down with three cops holding him, until the one gets up and executes him.

    If you draw with no justification, you are not only guilty of a crime of brandishing (at least in most areas), you are also responsible for whatever damage you do. Period. End of story.

    I feel sorry for the guy essentially fucking up the rest of his life at a relatively young age and all, but that’s the result of his sole actions.

  69. *Im sure there is the very rare mechanical defect. Rare enough to not lead to reasonable doubt without specific evidence that hasnt come out yet.

    Glocks do that, dontcha know. Seeing as how they don’t have any safeties and all.

  70. Other Matt,

    You have it right. I still havent seen any explanations from the copologists about why he even drew a weapon (any). Anyone? What’s that explanation?

  71. Other Matt,

    Glocks do that, dontcha know. Seeing as how they don’t have any safeties and all.

    Well, they have 3. All are disabled when you pull the trigger, but YOU STILL HAVE TO PULL THE TRIGGER.

    I know you know that and all, I just felt like ranting.

    Anyway, yeah, thats why they dont fire accidentally. Sure, they could have 1 defect, but there are still the 2 other safeties. Maybe, in a super rare case, they could have 2 defects, but that stills leaves the remaining safety. 3 defects? Nope.

  72. Matt, robc, I stated in a very early comment:

    “And on top of all that, he had no plausible reason to draw either weapon in the first place.”

    No one has made any justification for that. I still don’t get it. I know! He was getting his cuffs out and accidentally grabbed the gun instead. Understandable mistake, right?

  73. From that cop board:

    Had he complied with the orders the officers were giving him, completely and totally with NO resistance I mean NONE, then the officer probably would not have felt the need to utilize his Taser or anything else.

    Straight from the horse’s mouth. If the police perceive that you are completely submissive, they probably won’t taze or shoot you. To be sure, from time to time they just taze or shoot even perfectly cooperative people. But if you do exactly as you’re told, the odds against the police killing you anyway diminish significantly.

    Wheeeee!

  74. He was getting his cuffs out and accidentally grabbed the gun instead.

    No wonder he was surprised when the cuffs went off. Im still wondering why he pulled the trigger on the cuffs. 🙂

  75. Complient or not, the worst the guy was doing was flopping around with three guys holding him down. It reminds me of this video only the guy didn’t miss. Imagine if the cop in this video has capped the guy in the skull instead of missing…

  76. To be sure, from time to time they just taze or shoot even perfectly cooperative people.

    Or asleep on their couch.

    Of course, that guy wasnt cooperating.

    Speaking of which, any updates, how much do you win from the city for getting tased on your living room couch?

  77. Very thoughtful piece, Radley.

  78. Glocks, safety *fingers in ears* lalalala nononono not that discussion again….

  79. domo,

    In this instance, the “safeties” are exactly appropriate. They prevent accidental fire. They dont prevent “children playing with gun” fire.

  80. We don’t even know if it was a Glock. Regardless, most LEO guns have no safety and are just DAO instead. They DO NOT have hair triggers. You have to pull fairly hard for every shot.

  81. most LEO guns have no manual safety

    Like domo, I dont feel like having that argument again.
    So I fixed it instead.

  82. Well, they have 3. All are disabled when you pull the trigger, but YOU STILL HAVE TO PULL THE TRIGGER.

    It was a joke. I know full well what Glocks have, how they function, etc.

    We don’t even know if it was a Glock.

    I know. But, Glocks just randomly go off by themselves, you know, not having safeties and all. (this is sarcastic, but I have heard of at least one case where a police officer tried to claim this about a negligent discharge).

  83. you’ll get no argument from me this morning robc – I plead no contest to glocks having safeties. In any event, I think we can agree that the first safety (the cops brain) was tragically flawed in this case.

  84. No one has made any justification for that.

    Agreed. That’s what’s amazing to me. If it were him going for a taser and fucking it up, then why not at least say “I was going for a nonlethal solution!” Instead, he books to another state and gets arrested on a fugitive warrant. His subsequent actions just don’t fit with a person who is remorseful and just made a mistake.

  85. most LEO guns have no manual safety

    I know! Let’s get into a pointless nitpicking argument over drop safeties versus manual safeties!

    Or, we could discuss who the last Cylon model might be.

  86. I know you know that and all, I just felt like ranting.

    Like domo, I dont feel like having that argument again.
    So I fixed it instead.

    I posted those parts again, since they didnt seem to show up on Other Matt’s or Epi’s screen. 🙂

  87. It reminds me of this video only the guy didn’t miss.

    Big difference is that in the video, the police (woman) is covering an active suspect while another officer (man in video) is placing cuffs on. In the BART case, it would be the equivalent of the male officer standing up and shooting the guy. The woman officer in this video is guilty of negligently pressing the trigger, for sure, but it wasn’t nearly as gross as standing up, drawing, and shooting an individual under the control of two other officers.

  88. gives a new meaning to “public safety officer” I cringe whenever I see an armed police officer now. All my mind does now is fill in the most probable backstory that would conclude with the cop im looking at being a jackbooted thug highschool dropout/lazy incompetant donut eating public trough feeder/corrupt local political beneficiary of nepotism. In any case, my town has seen an enormous increase in violent crime so far this year and – being in wonderful NJ – I am basically a walking target everytime I take to my streets. Fuck you Corzine – you live in my town, but you have a state police guard. Newsflash: you need them, cuz your town is going to shit.

  89. Let’s give the cop the benefit of the doubt and say that he did mean to use his taser. The big question then becomes “How did this guy even get a badge in the first place?” He was on the force for two years, wouldn’t he have been involved in a stressful situation where he would have performed below standards. Wouldn’t his fellow officers have noticed this and brought it up to their superiors? What about his training? Isn’t this one of the most important types of situations that cops should be trained on? And what about the psychological tests these guys take to get on the force? Were there ever any red flags on this cop to show that he might not react well under pressure? Again, this might just be an “isolated incident”, but shouldn’t the entire department be put under scrutiny from recruitment to training to hiring to evaluating their potential officers and officers?

    What if he meant to use his gun? Why didn’t the department know he had this type of mindset? If they did know, are there other officers out there with the same propensity for escalating violence? Assuming this is not an ‘isolated incident’ as we do here, there are bigger fish to fry than the single cop involved in this killing. The cop’s psyche should be pretty well ruined by now, doling out the punishment is just the capper on him. I want to know why he was given a badge and let out on the streets? Weren’t there ever any red flags raised regarding this man’s ability to calmly react in stressful situations?

  90. Yeah, I don’t know. I will defer to Mr. Balko in all matters cop-shooting related. But all I can see are thugs murdering someone to make a point about au-thor-i-ty.

  91. I posted those parts again, since they didnt seem to show up on Other Matt’s or Epi’s screen. 🙂

    No, it did. I just pointed out that my first comment was a sarcastic comment, apparently taken by others at face value.

    My sarcasm, though, has nothing to do with the fact that Glocks just discharge randomly on their own, given that they have no safties and all. (now that I’ve said this like four times, you all understand that this is a sarcastic comment driven by the fact that some people have tried to say exactly that to explain a ND, and that I in no way believe it true and find it ridiculous).

    I’m sure we’ll hear this from some defender before it’s all done, or some kind of variation.

  92. Other Matt,

    Why does he need to be covered if he’s restrained by two other cops? There is no such thing as “covered”. You do not point a gun at someone unless you are about to pull the trigger. The video doesn’t show what happened before the guy was subdued, but lets give the officer the benefit of the doubt. She still should have holstered her weapon once the guy was disarmed and face down on the ground.

  93. As we all know, Glocks are Austrian, and we all know who came from Austria, right? So the gun is inherently evil. Or, possibly, it doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, and will not stop, ever, until you are dead.

  94. When I was 10 and my dad bought me my first shotgun, the first rule he taught me was never point a gun at anything unless you intend to kill it. My dad’s a retired cop, but I think the profession has gone downhill in the 20 years since he left the force.

  95. Why does he need to be covered if he’s restrained by two other cops? There is no such thing as “covered”. You do not point a gun at someone unless you are about to pull the trigger

    “Covered” is a term meaning you’re covering someone or something with your muzzle. I’m not aware of any dispute in definitions in regards to the way I used it here.

    I only saw one officer restraining the guy.

    However, in reaction to your comment, I must amend what I said. She obviously wasn’t pointing at him, thinking about it, or he’d have at least a hole in him. She had her pistol at a low ready and she discharged it. Still shouldn’t have had finger on the trigger, but given that she didn’t shoot him, she wasn’t covering him, she was just at a low ready.

    Conversely, in the BART case, he draw, shot, and reholstered.

  96. domo,

    You do not point a gun at someone unless you are about to pull the trigger

    Yeah, this is basic firearms training too:

    1. Dont point at anything you dont plan to shoot
    2. Dont put finger inside guard until you decide to shoot

    Violating either (or both) of these seems to go well beyond negligence to me. Especially for people in positions that have had way more training than I have had. This should be 2nd nature to cops.

  97. Its something of a close call, and Radley makes probably as good a case as anyone can for the lesser charge.

    However, the essence of equality before the law is that everyone is treated the same. I am having a really, really hard time believing that a first degree murder charge wouldn’t be brought against someone who

    (a) has been in a fight
    (b) after their opponent is down and being restrained
    (c) stands up,
    (d) steps back,
    (e) pulls out a weapon
    (f) aims the weapon, and
    (g) fires it

    This is not an “accidental discharge.” He meant to fire the gun at the victim. He didn’t just happen to have a gun in his hand, he had to disengage, unholster, aim, and fire.

    Ultimately, I think a jury should be given the opportunity to assess whether he had the required state of mind for first degree murder. Under the circumstances outlined above, I think they could rationally reach that decision, or rationally convict of second degree murder.

    But, and this is the equality before the law part, I have no doubt that if a non-LEO had killed someone with these facts, they’d be up on 1st degree charges. And so he should, too.

  98. Oh, and in 25 years as a LEO, most spent patrolling the streets of a big midwestern city, my dad never once fired his weapon on duty (except at the practice range).

  99. As we all know, Glocks are Austrian, and we all know who came from Austria, right? So the gun is inherently evil. Or, possibly, it doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, and will not stop, ever, until you are dead.

    And if you get shot by a Glock, especially one of those random discharges due to no safeties kind of shot, don’t you rise up at midnight at the next full moon, and become an animated corpse spree killer?

  100. Epi, Wait – I thought libertarians thought everything austrian was inherently good and right?

  101. Anyone saying there is “no sign of provocation” hasn’t watched all of the videos available. I don’t have much sympathy for the cop in question, but the video taken on the platform certainly shows an unruly mob of people advancing on those officers. The screaming at the cops is so loud that many of the people harassing the police don’t even notice that there was a gunshot at all. At least one man seems to rush forward and try to throw something at the police who are trying to hold the line.

    Like I said, I don’t feel much sympathy for the cop in question, but I do think the officers present plainly had more than one threat to contend with, and the most major one was probably not the one lying face-down on the ground. None of that excuses him firing his weapon, but I certainly understand why he might have drawn it.

  102. Other Matt,
    I agree that the BART case is more egregious – my only point is that the case in the video is also shameful, and that it reminded me of it. I wonder how many close calls like that happen?

  103. Look on the bright side, everyone: this cop may validate the ‘I thought I was shooting my Taser’ defense for people who shoot cops in no-knock raids.

  104. Or, we could discuss who the last Cylon model might be.

    1. Tom Zarek
    2. Felix Gaeta
    3. Anastasia Dualla
    4. Romo Lampkin

    Those are, IMO, the only four possibles that make sense. In pretty much that order of likelihood.

  105. And if you get shot by a Glock, especially one of those random discharges due to no safeties kind of shot, don’t you rise up at midnight at the next full moon, and become an animated corpse spree killer?

    Fast zombies violate the Romero Rules, dude. Don’t be that guy.

    Epi, Wait – I thought libertarians thought everything austrian was inherently good and right?

    So now you’re a Nazi? That’s just awful.

  106. bah – i knew what you meant – was attempting Rothbad humor…

  107. rothbard…

  108. 5. Patrick McGoohan

    That would be a shocking twist

  109. Earth is the final Cylon. Giant, pissed-off robot planet.

  110. bah – i knew what you meant – was attempting Rothbad humor…

    I know, dude. Just busting your balls.

    Those are, IMO, the only four possibles that make sense. In pretty much that order of likelihood.

    I have this creeping fear that they are going to go against their current stellar track record and make it someone “big”, like Starbuck, and completely make no sense but have shock value. However, that is more from my continual disappointment by a lot of TV and film, and not from any mistakes they have made.

  111. Sillies, the residents of the (former) Colonies are all pre-Cylon artificial constructs, and we’re the last of the humans that survived the pre-Cylon rebellion against humanity on Kobol.

  112. ProL, that actually makes some sense.

    I say the final model should just be Michael Bloomberg.

  113. Pro Lib – aha. So the entire BSG cast is the final Cylon. I like it.

  114. I like it too, but I doubt that they’d do something like that in light of the Caprica prequal series. It would completely invalidate the rise and revolt of the original Cylon skinjob models. (Even more so than the Caprica series itself will invalidate the entire BSG series.)

  115. I discussed this possibility with Jennifer on Hit & Run right after Season 1. It’s the optimal switcheroo and mindfuck, and I think I’ll be disappointed with any other outcome. Can’t you just see Adama’s reaction when he finds this one out? I figure he’ll find out and do something cool like destroy the fleet. Finis.

  116. It would completely invalidate the rise and revolt of the original Cylon skinjob models.

    No, it could be a sermon on race relations. Think of the treacle! I am white on the right side. He is white on the left side!

  117. SugaFree,

    Good point, but it’s still the best outcome. I think they could overcome that problem, perhaps, by also revealing that the AIs keep ending up more human than not–the first time around and with the Cylons. The big problem, of course, is that we might lose sympathy for the characters on Caprica if they aren’t human.

    Blurring the distinction and raising the question of “what is human?” is so great and so topical that I’ll be upset if it doesn’t happen at least partly this way. There are possible variations–humans and AIs interbreeding in the Colonies, for instance, making all of the non-Cylon cast hybrids.

  118. And, if you don’t like Caprica, there’s always Battlestar Serenity.

  119. There are possible variations–humans and AIs interbreeding in the Colonies, for instance, making all of the non-Cylon cast hybrids.

    This is better than the “they’re all robots!” scenario.

  120. And, if you don’t like Caprica, there’s always Battlestar Serenity.

    That’s some funny shit, there.

  121. I hope it works out this way. The hybrid option could result in people bickering and arguing over which colonies are the most “human”. And, of course, once you go down this road, the whole question of who the real humans are (and were) will always be an issue.

    Yes, Battlestar Serenity is a good thing, if I do say so myself. I bet Whedon and Moore could get that greenlighted in about ten minutes. With the visuals alone!

  122. No, it could be a sermon on race relations.

    Gah.

    humans and AIs interbreeding in the Colonies, for instance, making all of the non-Cylon cast hybrids

    I like that too.

    Having just rewatched the entire series over Christmas break, I’m a bit more attuned to certain sideplots and clues that they’ve never gone back to and I wonder if they were going to weave them in. I try not to be a continuity dick, but it’s hard.

  123. I try not to be a continuity dick, but it’s hard.

    Dick…hard. Freudian slip much?

  124. You never appreciate word play.

  125. When you get a continuity erection, all facts must accord!

  126. Maybe if you paid a little attention to me once in a while, I would!

    (sobs, runs off)

  127. I bet Whedon and Moore could get that greenlighted in about ten minutes.

    If they would pitch it to HBO, I would subscribe.

  128. Oh, no! He’s going to leave me and take the kids!

    At least I’ll still get to see Elemenope and Pro Libertate on the weekends…

  129. robc,

    If HBO ran it, I’d buy stock in Time Warner Inc. (HBO’s parent).

  130. Misogynist!

    You haven’t been delivering Feministing links lately, dude. You’re falling down on the job.

  131. I finally went hoarse from laughing at them so much. I had to walk away and leave the oil.

  132. Anyone saying there is “no sign of provocation” hasn’t watched all of the videos available

    I strongly disagree with this. Even if you assume that the crowd was a threat, that gives the guy no right to draw on the person on the ground. You can only draw on someone that presents a threat. The individual on the ground most certainly did not.

  133. Fast zombies violate the Romero Rules, dude. Don’t be that guy.

    Don’t have to be fast. They’d have a Glock that shoots bullets. Randomly. With no safety.

  134. This whole thing is completely weird, and no theory fits all the facts.

    1. You’d have to be an idiot to think you could shoot someone in the back from close range in front of 20 witnesses and get away with it. Is the argument the guy was an idiot or that he wanted to shoot the guy so bad he was willing to spend his life in prison to do it?

    2.The taser theory makes some sense. Cops have been known to grab flashlights and try to fire them despite the obvious weight difference. Under immense stress and distraction, that should hardly be surprising. We are visual creatures. You’ve never grabbed the wrong set of keys when not paying attention, even if they are drastically different in weight?

    3.The taser theory is flawed, because tasering somebody being held down by other cops is going to shock them as well. Then again, the guy is demonstrably not an expert on the taser if he mistook it for a firearm. How much training and experience did he have with it?

    4.While its true that modern firearms do not go off by themselves, it is disingenuous to say they only can be fired intentionally. Triggers are pulled unintentionally. Either that are people intentionally shoot themselves when holstering their weapons sometimes for no apparent reason. And Plaxico Burress decided he needed a bullet in his leg for some reason.

  135. Other Matt,

    So more along the Maniac Cop 2 line?

  136. Dick…hard. Freudian slip much?

    And slide.

  137. Maybe this BART cop is the final Cylon?

  138. Cylons nuked the thread.

  139. something i learned about glocks from my younger brother:

    the company was founded by an austrian named gaston glock. mr. glock got his start in industry with something called an e-tool.

    no, the e-tool has nothing to do with technology or the internet. “e” stands for entrenching, and the e-tool was sold to the austrian army. what it did was punch holes in the ground for austrian soldiers to defecate in.

  140. NutraSweet, you have brought back my very fond memories of Larry Cohen films. You can’t beat The Stuff. I still haven’t asked Roy Frumkes if he ripped it off for Street Trash.

  141. This thread was so thoroughly hijacked and far enough down-post that I actually was thrown off by the seemingly irrelevant comment about the cop. I thought Other Matt was talking about BSG

  142. …what do we know about the reports filed by the other officers? Were they written before the videos were public? Did they try to cover up what happened?

    If so, why are the other officers not charged as accomplices after the fact?

  143. If so, why are the other officers not charged as accomplices after the fact?

    Conspiracy isn’t a crime if the police do it.

  144. why are the other officers not charged as accomplices after the fact?

    That’s outrageous!

  145. what it did was punch holes in the ground for austrian soldiers to defecate in.

    And I’d lay money that it didn’t have a safety either.

    This thread was so thoroughly hijacked and far enough down-post that I actually was thrown off by the seemingly irrelevant comment about the cop.

    Sorry, unlike some people who are supposedly paid to plan, I have to, well, work once in a while. Not quite the non sequitur that bruce came up with though, I was at least on the original target.

  146. I don’t think justice will be served with anything more or less than an involuntary manslaughter charge, though I am willing to change my mind with more or better evidence.

    That said, the idea that cops should be held to a higher standard ignores the fact that we are asking them to go into highly dangerous, unpredictable situations on a regular basis, yet they want as much as the rest of us to live to retirement. If the chance of getting killed in an incident is, say, 1 in a thousand, but the number of such incidents a cop faces in a thirty-year career numbers in the hundreds, then his odds of ending in a chalk circle are alarmingly close to 50-50.

    So the consequences of telling cops they’ll be hung especially high, given human realities, is that we will have fewer and less quality people choosing to be cops. I don’t consider this a good outcome.

    So what’s the answer? See my first paragraph.

  147. You’d have to be an idiot to think you could shoot someone in the back from close range in front of 20 witnesses and get away with it. Is the argument the guy was an idiot or that he wanted to shoot the guy so bad he was willing to spend his life in prison to do it?

    The only reason he didn’t get away with it is the unconfiscated videos. Witnesses (the human kind) have no bearing on what happened or could have happened to Mehserle.

  148. _”The only reason he didn’t get away with it is the unconfiscated videos. Witnesses (the human kind) have no bearing on what happened or could have happened to Mehserle.”_

    You’re suggesting that the DIA investigation with a body with an entry wound in the back wouldn’t raise eyebrows? The video raised this to the national level, but this wasnt going to be swept under the rug either way. Every shooting is investigated and a bullet in the back is certainly going to be scrutinized. The idea that cops shoot prone people in the back in front of a crowd often enough to think they can get away with it is pure fantasy. There is NO WAY this guy thought he would do this, no big deal. For that matter why would he assume there werent cameras all over the place in this day and age?

  149. If the chance of getting killed in an incident is, say, 1 in a thousand, but the number of such incidents a cop faces in a thirty-year career numbers in the hundreds, then his odds of ending in a chalk circle are alarmingly close to 50-50.

    If this were *anywhere close* to the actual numbers, you might have a point. But, um…you are off by several orders of magnitude.

  150. “If this were *anywhere close* to the actual numbers, you might have a point. But, um…you are off by several orders of magnitude.”

    Reminds me of the Simpsons episode where Chief Wiggin explains he doesn’t have a retirement plan because he assumes he will be gunned down on his last day on the job. And when asked what he’ll do if he isn’t killed he says to stop upsetting his wife.

  151. BTW – has BART released their security videos yet?

    CB

  152. “he doesn’t have a retirement plan because he assumes he will be gunned down on his last day on the job.”
    I didn’t see the episode, but as an interesting side note, any day you get gunned down is generally your “last day on the job”.

  153. kent g. budge, you’re a moron. if your numbers were correct, half of all the cops who had served in our lifetime would have died on the job. if this were so, don’t you think we would have heard about it?

    in actual fact, the two most dangerous jobs in america are commercial fishing and logging. police work is way, way down on the list.

  154. “There is no way you are going to mistake a taser for a gun. NO WAY. Guns are heavy, metal, and carried on your strong side. Tasers are light, plastic, and carried on the weak side.”

    Well, not exactly. The Taser M26 weighs a shade over 19 oz, is plastic, has a grip that closely resembles that of the Glock 22, a very common law enforcement sidearm. The Glock is largely plastic and weighs 22.9 ounces. 4 oz isn’t much difference when the adrenalin dump happens.

    And in a crowd, trying to restrain a struggling suspect, I’m not so sure that a Taser would have been totally out of line.

    The BART PD deployed Tasers around 1 week before the shooting, I don’t know what their doctrine was about weak side/strong side carry.

  155. You’re suggesting that the DIA investigation with a body with an entry wound in the back wouldn’t raise eyebrows?

    I am sure that eyebrows would have been raised, but Mehserle and I both know that the “investigation” would have shown Oscar Grant was not handcuffed, that he was actively resisting an LEOs and that appeared to be reaching for a weapon underneath him when he was shot. The report (never to be released to the public) might have the BAC levels of the witnesses, but would certainly not quote them except maybe to show inconsistencies on collateral matters. So far, because of the video, BART has only said four interesting things about the shooting: (i) Grant was not handcuffed before the shooting (a lie); (ii) LEOs did not quickly move to unhandcuff Grant after the shooting (another lie); (iii) there was no relevant footage from the station cameras (yet another lie) and (iv) Mehserle was wearing a Taser on his crossdraw hip (probably a lie but the photo we have in not absolutely conclusive). If they tell this many lies when there is unconfiscated video, imagine what whoppers would have abounded if they had managed to nab all the vids.

    “Investigations” that are phoney baloney happen all the time. Here is one from yesterday:

    http://www.martinsvillebulletin.com/article.cfm?ID=17324

    the circumstances are different, but you can smell the lies. A policeman is investigating a home invasion in progress with a drawn TASER?!?!?! And, then, surprise, surpriiiiiiise: it turns out there wasn’t really a home invasion after all, but supposedly some unidentified witness (whose 911 call we don’t get to hear, natch) had said there was one. This is just a typical humdrum example of the kind of story, with stinking police lies, you can find every week if you pay attention. Typically, no eyebrows are raised, except for mine.

  156. “The only reason he didn’t get away with it is the unconfiscated videos. Witnesses (the human kind) have no bearing on what happened or could have happened to Mehserle.”

    I agree with this opinion. Similar things happened in Chicago about 2 years ago with the separate incidents of police beating the crap out of people in bars. Nothing happened until videos surfaced. In a lot of places: Word of Police > everything else except evidence easy enough for a 10 year old to understand (ie video).

    But, the cop’s body language after the shot leads me to believe that he didn’t mean to fire the weapon. However, I do think he meant to draw his gun and point it. I don’t know if he was trying to intimidate or be macho (and even if he didn’t shoot anyone, he should still be fired just for doing that), but everything up until the gun goes off seems deliberate and intentional.

    I don’t see Murder One here. Maybe Murder Two, but at least a Vouluntary Manslaughter.

    Re: Police conspiracy, does anyone know/rememeber how long between this incident happening and the video surfacing? I didn’t hear anything about it until the video was released already.

  157. Triggers are pulled unintentionally

    Only be untrained idiots. He was, at worst, a trained idiot.

    Even assuming he didnt put his finger inside the trigger guard with intention to pull the trigger, that rises to a level of negligence that, under CA law, pretty much guarantees Murder-2.

    Realistically, the only two options are Murder 1 and Murder 2. I figure as a prosecutor you go for broke and led him plead to murder 2.

  158. Important note -if you have a video of an event like this, do not let the police know about it until after they have filed all their paperwork and made their statements under oath.

    That way, you can maximize the perjury charges.

  159. Or, reinstate faith in the police, if they all tell the truth.

    Either way, holding on to the video for a while is a good idea.

  160. Re: Police conspiracy, does anyone know/rememeber how long between this incident happening and the video surfacing? I didn’t hear anything about it until the video was released already.

    I think two days (Jan. 3). It took about another two days (Jan. 5) for the first two vids to really pick up traction, though. What was really eye opening was reading the 800 comments on the Jan 1 or 2 or 3 (can’t remember which) story out of the SF Chronicle, which spanned the pre-video and post-video eras. It was amazing to watch public opinion gradually turn as the videos enetered mainstream consciousness. Before the videos people very generally very, very supportive of the shooting. Which tells me a lot about where Mehserle and Mehserle’s partners heds may have been at.

  161. in actual fact, the two most dangerous jobs in america are commercial fishing and logging. police work is way, way down on the list.

    And most police either die in car chases or by heart attack chasing people, if I recall correctly.

    BTW – has BART released their security videos yet?

    They claimed that they didn’t have a camera which showed the event.

  162. Only be untrained idiots. He was, at worst, a trained idiot.

    Professionals are predictable, but the world is full of amateurs.

    Apparently there are a large number of trained idiots out there. Google “sheriff accidental discharge” or “officer accidental discharge”. It happens a lot more often than you would think… or more precisely its rare but when you are talking about hundreds of thousands of armed professionals there are going to be accidents. The weapon works perfectly, but the operator is intrinsically subject to that particular mistake, which is why external safeties are a good idea (not foolproof either of course). I’d bet you anything there are more accidental discharges with glocks per capita than with similar guns with external safeties.

  163. I am sure that eyebrows would have been raised, but Mehserle and I both know that the “investigation” would have shown Oscar Grant was not handcuffed, that he was actively resisting an LEOs and that appeared to be reaching for a weapon underneath him when he was shot.

    This isn’t some scumbag drug dealer that pulled his wallet out in the dark. Even the fellow cops wouldn’t all vouch on this one- there were 20 witnesses! This is apples and oranges with the ‘typical’ evidence planning and even mistake covering up, if a suspect ended up with a bullet in his back a DA is going to get the case to examine and DA’s arent exactly behind the blue line. I know that cops cover up for each other and sometimes plant evidence or worse, but this is a real outlier of a case. People don’t get shot in the back every day, there is no he said/she said. Huge red flag even with no video. And more importantly no cop in his right mind is going to THINK he can get away with shooting someone in the back (which is what matters), its ludicrous. Why not put the gun to the back of his skull and execute him? Shooting him in the back he had a good chance of surviving (the ricochet actually killed him)? It makes zero sense that this was the particular way this cop decided to off this guy intentionally. It was either a terrible mistake or he just lost his mind. Or he’s a sociopath that doesnt care about getting caught. No way he thought this would be something that would slip by.

    The guy is still negligent as hell, probably criminally so. If he had done the right thing and been reaching for his cuffs instead of whatever he was reaching for

  164. Mark Buehner

    I will have to agree with you on the large number of trained idiots, unfortunately.

    When the Louisville Police Dept switched to Glocks in the 90s, they almost immediately had 4 accidental shootings.

    2 were cops shooting themselves cleaning them. WTF? Really?

    The other two were accidental firings – supposedly. No one was shot.

    In one, a cop was chasing a perp and fell on a wet sidewalk and shot the house right above the witnesses heads. So he was running with his finger on the trigger apparently.

    the operator is intrinsically subject to that particular mistake

    Isnt this the point of training, however? To create muscle memory so that the professional intrinsically sticks his finger out instead of inside the trigger guard? Like in this picture?

  165. I’d bet you anything there are more accidental discharges with glocks per capita than with similar guns with external safeties.

    The word is “negligent”. If you depress the trigger with your finger when you’re not supposed to nor wanting to, it’s a negligent discharge. An AD is like reholstering and catching the black tension tab thing on your Polartec jacket in the trigger guard, which pulls the trigger, which has happened with competitive shooters. I don’t know if Glock has a higher incidence of ND’s. I haven’t seen it, personally, but it may be there. Most people use a DAO anyway, not a manual safety, so if there is a correlation it’s not related.

    2 were cops shooting themselves cleaning them. WTF? Really?

    I actually know a 20 yr policeman who did this. It’s really a training issue. Police would store a gun “hot”, meaning, ready to fire, as they may have barbarians at the gates to respond to. The original Glock boxes had a plastic cone which would depress the trigger when you pressed the firearm into the box, or closed the lid. Glock subsequently changed their box design. The whole “cleaning” situation is avoided if you do the basic steps to make the firearm safe, btw, regardless of the model.

    To create muscle memory so that the professional intrinsically sticks his finger out instead of inside the trigger guard? Like in this picture?

    Yes, that’s exactly why his finger is outside the guard, as he wasn’t ready to shoot, in that picture.

    Shooting him in the back he had a good chance of surviving (the ricochet actually killed him)? It makes zero sense that this was the particular way this cop decided to off this guy intentionally.

    Disagree. Typical training is to shoot center of mass first, evaluate, then go for the head if the COM shots don’t work (guy has a vest). We used to train ultra close range going for the pelvis, disabling the attacker regardless of a vest. It’s understandable to shoot center of mass. What is mystifying to me is what possible rationale he could have to draw in the first place. It seems that it’s destined to remain a mystery what his thoughts were.

  166. This is apples and oranges with the ‘typical’ evidence planning and even mistake covering up, if a suspect ended up with a bullet in his back a DA is going to get the case to examine and DA’s arent exactly behind the blue line. I know that cops cover up for each other and sometimes plant evidence or worse, but this is a real outlier of a case. People don’t get shot in the back every day, there is no he said/she said. Huge red flag even with no video.

    Gimme a break. I wasn’t born yesterday:

    http://www.sfbg.com/entry.php?entry_id=7799

  167. http://www.sfbg.com/entry.php?entry_id=7799

    Wow. mea culpa, i’ve never heard of such a thing. That’s insane.

  168. To the idiot above who said he “calmly reholsters his gun,” you’re an idiot. He looks at the cop across from him, looks down at the guy, looks at the other cop again, looks down, and puts both his hands on his head while looking down.

    He clearly did not expect to shoot. And he deserves to be punished for pulling his weapon.

  169. Apologies for my HTML fumble earlier.

  170. nonsense. Civilians should always, and in all places, be submissive.

    That would solve all sorts of problems.

  171. Cops are not allowed to shot people who are struggling, they are allowed to subdue them.
    There were other officers at the scene who were more engaged in whatever struggle was happening and none of them pulled out their gun and fired. The real “tell” is the excuse his side is floating. That he thought he grabbed his taser. That’s bullshit. If he honestly thought he grabbed his taser, his reaction would have been surprise when he realized he fired his gun. It wasn’t. He calmly holstered his weapon. He didn’t look at it in shock or quickly scan his belt for the source of his error. He just put his gun back in the holster. He’s going to jail. Hopefully for a long time.

    The other component of this is the value of videotaping law enforcement. If the police were not videotaped, what would have happened? I’m sure the case would be a whole lot more murky.

  172. To “Other Matt”, RE: firing a Glock while cleaning it. Glocks are striker fired, meaning they have an internal slide-mounted striker rather than an external hammer (such as most revolvers) or an internal frame-mounted hammer (such as the Ruger Mark I/II/III .22 semi-automatic pistols). The Glock pistol cannot be disassembled with the striker cocked. Since it’s all internal, the only way to uncock the striker is press the trigger. If there is a round in the chamber the gun will fire when that is done and the bullet will go wherever the gun happens to be pointed at that time. It should be noted that the gun is defective if it is loaded and does NOT discharge when the trigger is pressed. Glock pistols do not have a manually-operated mechanical safety (neither do revolvers, by the way), instead depending on the design of the trigger mechanism to provide the same level of safety. It may have happened, but I am not aware of any instances of Glock pistols discharging WITHOUT the trigger being pressed, even when subjected to deliberate abuse intended to produce an unintended discharge.

    Training for field stripping and cleaning on ANY semi-auto is: 1) make sure the gun is pointed in a safe direction; 2) keep your finger off the trigger; 3) remove the magazine and place it aside; 4) open the action by manually cycling the slide to eject the round in the chamber; 5) manually lock the action open with the slide lock lever; 6) visually and physically inspect the chamber to make sure there is no round in the chamber and no magazine in the magazine well; 7) maintaining the “point in safe direction” status, manually close the action by releasing the slide lock and allowing the slide to go forward. At this point with most semi-auto pistols you may begin the disassembly in preparation for cleaning. With Glocks, however, there is one more step that must be performed first: pressing the trigger to decock the cocked striker.

    With the exception of keeping the finger on the trigger during re-holstering, that point is where a negligent discharge is most likely to occur.

    Each time the slide is cycled to the rear the striker will re-cock, and if there is a magazine in the gun that contains ammunition the slide will strip a round from the magazine and move it forward into the chamber when the slide moves forward into battery, producing a loaded firearm in ready-to-fire mode. That is a common error among individuals not familiar with, or inadequately trained on, semi-auto pistols. They will open the action BEFORE they remove the magazine, eject the chambered round, close the action THEN remove the magazine. Unfortunately, they have just committed a sequencing error which results in a cocked striker and chambered round, but because they removed the magazine they believe the gun is now unloaded. It is not. Most people shoot a gun a lot more then they disassemble and clean it so it takes a long time to create “muscle memory” on the unload/disassemble process.

  173. Maybe I missed this, but can someone tell me if this officer was carrying a taser for sure? Do we know that much yet?

  174. To “Other Matt”, RE: firing a Glock while cleaning it. Glocks are striker fired,

    What’s your point? If you don’t make the firearm safe prior to cleaning it, you’re an idiot. I know full well how Glocks operate. Placing a loaded Glock into a case that depresses the trigger fires it, Glock missed with the Gen 1 cases.

    As for this:
    With the exception of keeping the finger on the trigger during re-holstering, that point is where a negligent discharge is most likely to occur.

    Only if you’re stupid enough to have a loaded magazine in the well when you cycle the slide, meaning you missed your step 3.

    Again, what’s your point? My previous post said that Glocks would ND during cleaning only because people didn’t make them safe, which you implicitly agree with as the only way for the cycle to reload the chamber is if either didn’t remove the magazine or you reinserted it. My previous post also said they went off when you put them in a case which caused the trigger to depress while in a “hot” condition. You apparently agree with both points, so are you just confirming what I said or did I miss something?

  175. Maybe I missed this, but can someone tell me if this officer was carrying a taser for sure? Do we know that much yet?

    I haven’t read anything that said he wasn’t carrying one, though I have read a number of places where it says none was visible on his person in the videos. I saw a firearm, cuff case, radio, and baton. Taser holsters tend to be large, if he was wearing one you should see it.

    I guess the theory is that he was used to a Taser, but this time had a firearm instead.

    BTW, I don’t know if it was a Glock or not, my previous comment was due to all the ignorance of a particular thread in the past that dealt with Glocks. So, the whole cleaning thing, as well as the storage thing, means nothing in this case.

  176. I am not aware of any instances of Glock pistols discharging WITHOUT the trigger being pressed, even when subjected to deliberate abuse intended to produce an unintended discharge.

    Neither am I, but I do recall reading one case where a police officer being investigated for a ND claimed that very thing happened. The investigation concurred, saying “Glocks are known for that.” This, to me, is ludicrous, as mechanically it borders on impossible, but it’s a convenient way to cover up negligence on someone’s behalf.

    My comment that you’ll hear it along the way is that the guy will probably claim that he was just pulling the firearm out for preparation, and it went off on it’s own. Judging from the video, that’s all he’s got.

  177. I hope what is learned from this is that our police are automatically trained to draw their weapons when a problem arises.

    Here is a clearer video shot from much closer, facing the officer.

    http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=4ba_1231550246

    I hope some officers will appreciate being taped if he doesn’t get charged with murder.
    And who can’t tell the difference between a taser and a gun. Can anyone tell me where they are kept on a officer?

  178. RenoDraws,

    From what I have gathered from the folks on these threads, it seems that if an officer carries both a taser and a gun he would carry them on opposite sides. The gun would be holstered on his strong side with the taser on the weak with the butt possibly facing forward. Again, this is mainly from what I have read from the posts on H&R. I know absolutely nothing about weapons (fired a handgun at some beer cans once or twice/don’t own one), but am a big believer in gun rights. Getting quite an education from these threads.

  179. The funny thing is that the same people who are protesting against the police most loudly are the very same ones who believe that only the police should have guns-

  180. The funny thing is that the same people who are protesting against the police most loudly are the very same ones who believe that only the police should have guns-

    WTF? Have you ever read this site before? The loudest protesters also own firearms. Often many of them.

  181. WTF? Have you ever read this site before? The loudest protesters also own firearms. Often many of them.

    I resemble that remark.

    Actually, though I believe the original comment was referring to the protesters on the ground in Oakland/SF area.

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