July 10, 2010

Oakland BART Shooting: Was He Even Looking?

screen grab via KGO

screen grab via KGO

As sickening as the fact (and the video documentation) of BART transit cop Johannes Mehserle’s fatally shooting of the overwhelmed Oscar Grant on January 1, 2009, what’s profoundly troubling is the artifact above.  The photo, actually taken by Mr. Grant himself with a cellphone, captures Mehserle pointing a taser directly at him while the officer — who was convicted of the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter on Thursday — fingers the taser holster on the right side of his belt.

Given the defense of “taser confusion,” it’s hard to think Mehserle got confused between his gun, on his right side, and the taser on his left (suggested by some by this still here) after seeing him first handling and in control of the much lighter weapon above.

What the photo represents is a horrible irony between Mr. Grant’s role of victim as well as spectator as well as witness for having generated such a piece of evidence.  Perhaps more striking and suggestive, though, is the fact that Mehserle’s head is so torqued to the right that he’s not even close to looking at Grant, although the weapon is pointed right at him.  In one instant-in-time, it’s logical the officer might shoot a glance away. In the frozen reality of this instant, however, the impression — given the knowledge of what follows — suggests Mehserle was not all there … that he was “out of his mind.”

(8 am. slightly edited. Title changed from: Frozen Frame from the Oakland Subway Shooting )

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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