Thursday, January 8, 2009

On the BART Shooting & Oakland Riots.

During one of my every-other-hour check of new headlines on CNN, my attention was drawn for the first time to an iReport, specifically a video clip of four young guys from Oakland, entitled 'The Oakland Riots - Youth Explain Their Anger.'

I'm not exactly sure what separates iReport from youtube - the discussion board was atrocious for the most part, so they have that in common. When I scrolled down to check out the comment board, I was initially shocked at how off-base the discussion got - to the point that many people were only now lobbing racist rhetoric back and forth. Some of it even dealt with trying to offer a rational explanation (i.e. racist justification) for why the BART officer (Johannes Mehserle) fired on Oscar Grant - arguments based on race/crime statistics. I attempted to throw in my two cents (included below), but couldn't manage to get any real traction with all the misspellings and hyper-offensive arguments going on. Here was the point I tried making:

There seems to be a scary amount of "missing the point" going on on this board. First and foremost, it's clearly a tragedy that this man was shot. There's no point in trying to rationalize it by pointing to any statistics relating to race/crime - the man was clearly not posing enough of a threat to warrant lethal force. Second, it was clearly inappropriate for people to react to this tragedy by attacking/destroying the property of people who had nothing to do with the incident, regardless of how poor (or not) the above folks are at articulating their views (or not). And finally, any fair-minded person can recognize the possibility of a scared and possibly poorly trained BART cop mistakenly pulling his pistol instead of his taser gun. If you're under the false apprehension that taser guns do/can not resemble pistols, I recommend doing a google image search. It would take a fool or an intentionally obtuse person to not recognize that.

Am I off-base here?

I mean, based the video I watched, it looks to me like Mehserle was shocked at what he had just done. I'm not so cynical as to think that not only did he intend to fire a pistol (as opposed to a taser gun) into the man's back, but that he is cool-headed enough to feign surprise at the result.

I don't think any more needs to be said about the rioters, I'm probably preaching to the choir on that one.

Out of curiosity, any thoughts on what the liability will be here? My take is that BART (i.e. California?) is in for a hefty civil suit (like, maybe, this one) for failure to properly train the guy - that seems pretty clear. What about criminal charges? Manslaughter? Seems like the most vocal on the subject are calling for murder charges, but I can't see any way that that notion will get anywhere.

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