Saturday, January 3, 2009

Conflicting stories

For Oscar Grant, the New Year only lasted about two hours.

The 22-year-old San Leandro resident reportedly was part of two groups of men who had been fighting on a Dublin-Pleasanton bound train when BART police boarded and removed them. As the men were detained on the Fruitvale station platform, Grant was fatally shot, leaving behind a 4-year-old daughter.

To those outside the Bay Area, this incident may seem like law enforcement officers who in doing their job to control unruliness, accidently shot a man who later died at the hospital. For those of us who live in the East Bay – specifically Oakland – this looks like another case of law enforcement covering their shields to look good.

Why was an unarmed man, laying or sitting on the ground, shot? If Grant and the other men were handcuffed prior to his being shot, why were guns and Tasers drawn and ready to fire? BART officials confirm that none of the men detained were armed so why did one officer feel a gun was more warranted than a Taser?

Do BART police know how hard it is for someone sitting or laying down with their hands cuffed behind their back to stand and come at them with no warning? If Grant wasn’t handcuffed when he was shot, why were handcuffs placed on him while he was injured … and then removed “before the media got there,” according to witnesses?

Oh … the story gets better. Allegedly, none of the station cameras were working to record the incident. However, after review, one camera was functioning – of course, the one that captured nothing to help BART’s case.

The mother of Grant’s daughter has hired civil rights attorney John Burris to handle the case. And that’s a good thing.

Too many times our young men are shot and/or killed under questionable circumstances. And too many times these men are of color and don’t have the means or voice to have a violation of their civil rights investigated properly.

Burris’ voice is one that people listen to and I hope it will force BART officials and the officers involved in the shooting incident to tell the truth.

Accidents do happen and will. But lying about it and/or covering up what really happened – even a small part of it – is just as bad as shooting someone intentionally.

And plain and simple … that’s wrong.

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