Was Oscar Grant beaten by police before he was shot?

The latest revelation in the case of Oscar Grant, who was shot in the back by a police officer in an Oakland, California, BART station early on New Year’s Day, may explain why former officer Johannes Mehserle fled California after the incident. Newly obtained video taken by a bystander at the scene shows an unnamed police officer approach and punch Oscar Grant, who was already being detained by another officer, without reason. That same officer had Grant pinned to the station platform, with a knee on his neck, when the 22-year-old man was later fatally shot by Mehserle.

Legal experts consulted by television station KTVU expressed shock at theconduct of officers in the video. Said Prof. Peter Keane, of the University of California-Hastings, Law School:

There’s no question in my mind that that’s vivid, powerful evidence that he committed a vicious physical assault, unprovoked, on a citizen for absolutely no reason.”

Adds Prof. Franklin Zimring, of the University of California-Berkeley, Boalt Law School:

Unless there’s something more that we don’t see, then the degree of force that was used, and the way it was used, are not justified.”

Both experts agree that the officer’s conduct appears to be criminal and could well be subject to prosecution. Keane says the DA “is not doing his job” by failing to bring charges for assault.


The video raises the possibility that then-Officer Mehserle was continuing an illegal conflict that fell outside his authority as a police officer when he drew his weapon and fired the round that killed Oscar Grant. That might well explain why Mehserle’s arrest on murder charges took place across the state line in Nevada.

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