BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle
A picture of former BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle from Oscar Grant’s perspective just before the policeman killed the black man in cold blooded fashion. Mr. Mehserle was convicted of the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter. He’s now facing a prison sentence of as little as twenty four months for killing a handcuffed Oscar Grant, who was lying face down on his belly with his hands behind his back. Mr. Mehserle claimed that Mr. Grant was resisting arrest while he was bound and therefore meant to use a taser on the bound and helpless Mr. Grant. Frustrated that Oscar Grant didn’t just rollover and play dead, Mr. Mehserle stood up over the man with the handcuffs behind his back, reached for his .40 caliber service pistol instead, and pulled the trigger.
I’m willing to give Mr. Mehserle the benefit of doubt. There was a chance that he reached for his pistol thinking he was reaching for his taser. But my biggest problem with Mr. Mehserle was why was he reaching for a taser in the first place? Mr. Grant was already subdued and ready to be taken to the paddy wagon. So why was Mr. Mehserle reaching for anything? The only thing I can think of was that his contempt for Mr. Grant got the better of his judgment as he was overwhelmed with a sudden surge of anger. Mr. Mehserle may not have meant to actually kill the helpless Mr. Grant. But he clearly wanted to deprive Oscar Grant of his civil rights. And it was that want that led to the murder of a black man.
The crime of involuntary manslaughter carries a penalty of only two to four years in prison. That’s twenty four months to forty eight months for depriving a man of his life in a fit of irrational anger. Oscar Grant had recently gone to prison for sixteen months for something like the illegal possession of a firearm. Having an unregistered gun gets you sixteen months. Killing a subdued prisoner in your care only cost eight more months. Now that’s a bargain!
But honestly, who’s surprised? Who actually thought that this man would actually face murder charges for killing a young black man? Like a lot of young black men, Oscar Grant had a criminal record. Therefore, in the opinion of a lot of people, he was disposable. People have a tendency to think that young black men, especially the kind that have any history of trouble, are irredeemable and therefore no big loss. Two years is the minimum penalty for a black man’s murder.
When seventeen year old Genarlow Wilson was convicted of the statutory rape of a fifteen year old who consented to give the young man a blow job, he got a sentence of ten years in prison even though he had no criminal history. Totally different case, I know. One was being prosecuted with a law in Georgia and the other was being prosecuted by a law in Georgia. So that makes this disparity understandable and tolerable and just a coincidence of race.
But if that’s the case, where is the Georgia case of the white seventeen year old male who was successfully prosecuted and given ten years for having sex with a black fifteen year old girl? Where is the California case where a black cop is given two years for the murder of a young white male? What would the perception be for everyone if the shoe was on the other race’s foot?
If a black cop ever “accidentally” shoots a handcuffed and helpless white boy in the back while he was on the ground then it would be all over. Dude can kiss his ass goodbye for a very long time. If there’s ever a tape of a black cop hitting a white girl in the face because the girl shoved him then his ass would be grass and the majority of the public would be the lawnmower.