Monday, January 5, 2009
Playing Chess In the Dark: BART Police and the NYE Killing Fields
Don't make any hasty judgments. So says BART Police Chief Gary Gee. Bay Area Rapid Transit is our (crappy, inconvenient and overpriced) version of the NYC subway that serves San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa counties. If you live in the city of San Francisco you will most likely use MUNI - which is slightly less crappy but just as inefficient.
22 year-old Oscar Grant was shot and killed by a glorified rent-a-cop. The end.
When a police officer 'discharges' their gun directly at a handcuffed person who's down on the ground on their belly and surrounded by other officers it's not a clean shoot. This wasn't the scene of a crime spree or gang activity. This was a group of people going home in the early hours of New Year's Day. I saw plenty of drunk and unruly people on the streets of San Francisco yet they somehow made it home unharmed.
Attorney John L. Burris (not sure if he's related to Roland Burris) is grandstanding a bit for sure with a $25M lawsuit against the BART police but....yet again when they shoot "Black" and ask questions later there needs to be a statement made. He is NO SLOUCH and a highly-esteemed Civil Rights attorney: think the Johnnie Cochran of Northern CA.
I wasn't going to write about this initially because the news reports on this indicated a "group of men arguing who wouldn't stop despite the arrival of the police". Uh huh, that's code word for the 'Negroes were getting restless - danger alert'. I know how News Directors operate: they slant stories to give a certain perception, cover some stories while ignoring others.
I was already thinking that Black people KNOW unless you look like Carlton Banks (and perhaps not even then) you had better be quiet and keep your hands visible around police if you are in a group larger than ONE because the po-po are always trigger happy around brown-skinned people even when they are brown-skinned themselves.
Then one little blurb caught my attention "the police claimed they had no video to review because the cameras weren't recording" at that specific station on that specific night. Then I KNEW something went down that was fishy. This was on a route that has a higher Black population than other BART stops. Also, shootings on train station platforms are NOT common occurrences in the Bay Area.
Now some video footage has in fact emerged from other train passengers who witnessed the "police" on their rampage. The local news showed edited video but I'm enclosing what was submitted to Youtube - all 10 minutes. The fact that a police officer tried to take the camera from passenger Karina Vargas (who filmed this) and other people in the crowd certainly doesn't imply innocence from wrong-doing or how shooting an unarmed man was an accident either. We can all guess how this is going to turn out. No prosecution and an undisclosed settlement with a gag order in perpetuity. Too bad it won't bring back the life of an innocent person and father of a small child.
In case you'd like to demand some accountability though here's the contact information for Board Member Carole Ward Allen who covers the Fruitvale area where this "accident" took place. She is actually a very accomplished woman looking at her bio and I'm certain will do something to address this travesty.
BART Board of Directors
P.O. Box 12688
Oakland, CA 94604-2688
Their next meeting is January 8th at 9 a.m. The BART Board Room is located in the Kaiser Center 20th Street Mall, Third Floor, 344 20th St., Oakland, CA.
Contact Info for Police Chief Gee as well as Internal Affairs.
Chief of Police:
Gary Gee 510.464.7022, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sergeant David Chlebowski 510.464.7029, email@example.com
This isn't solely about the person harmed because if he's had so much as a parking ticket, the police will be certain to leak it to the media to discredit the family's case against them. This is about misconduct and potential criminal behavior of officers. I think it would be best to contact the family's attorney to inquire what assistance if any is needed and proceed from there.
Logo used from BART site