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New video shows BART cop shooting Hayward man in the back

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  • 1/4 Oakland Tribune
    Published Sunday, January 4, 2008, by the Oakland Tribune New video shows BART officer shooting Hayward man in the back By Sean Maher Oakland Tribune A BART
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 5 6:12 PM
      Published Sunday, January 4, 2008, by the Oakland Tribune

      New video shows BART officer shooting Hayward man in the back

      By Sean Maher
      Oakland Tribune

      A BART police officer struggling to handcuff a 22-year-old man stood
      up over the facedown Hayward resident and fired a single shot into his
      back while a handful of officers watched, a video taken by a train
      passenger apparently shows.

      The attorney for the family of Oscar Grant III, fatally shot by an
      unidentified BART officer early New Year's Day, said Sunday he plans
      to file a $25 million lawsuit against the department and asked
      prosecutors to consider filing murder charges against the officer.

      The shooting occurred shortly before 2 a.m. Thursday after five
      officers responded to the Fruitvale station to reports of a fight on
      a train, officials said, though they have not confirmed whether Grant
      was involved in the fight.

      The new video, obtained by television station KTVU, shows two officers
      restraining a struggling suspect. While the man is lying face down on
      the ground, one officer appears to be seen pulling out a gun and
      firing a single shot into his back.

      Civil rights attorney John Burris, known for his work in several high-
      profile cases involving police abuse and corruption, said at a Sunday
      news conference that the shooting was "the most unconscionable" he
      has ever seen. He said the Alameda County district attorney should
      consider filing charges of second-degree murder or manslaughter
      against the officer.

      "I've drafted a notice of claim against BART for $25 million I plan
      to submit officially," Burris said, adding that the officer had
      violated Grant's civil rights and wrongfully caused his death.

      The Police Department is in the early stages of a thorough
      investigation, BART police Chief Gary Gee said Sunday at a news
      conference. He declined to discuss many details, as doing so "before
      all the facts are in could compromise individual recollections and
      do disservice to the truth and the answers we're all seeking."

      BART police are cooperating fully with a parallel investigation by
      the Alameda County district attorney's office, Gee said.

      Gee declined to identify the officer but said he is a two-year BART
      police veteran. The officer was given drug and alcohol tests before
      being sent home on administrative leave Thursday, Gee said.

      The last BART officer-involved shooting occurred in May 2001, Gee

      Mario Pangelina Jr., whose sister had a 4-year-old daughter with
      Grant, said he was on the same train as Grant that night, but on a
      different car. He said he saw Grant's interactions with police
      immediately before the shooting.

      "First, an officer grabbed Oscar by the neck and pushed him against
      the wall," Pangelina said. "Oscar didn't fight him, but he didn't go
      down either. He was like, 'What did I do?' Then another officer came
      up with his Taser and held it right in his face. Oscar said, 'Please
      don't shoot me, please don't Taser me, I have a daughter,' over and
      over again, real fast, and he sat down."

      Grant was the only man in a small group sitting against the wall who
      was not handcuffed, Burris said, so officers grabbed him away from
      the wall and pressed him belly-down onto the ground.

      "One officer was kneeling over his neck and head, and another standing
      over him," Burris said. "He was not kicking, and one officer was
      pulling on his arm. The standing officer pulled out his weapon and,
      within moments, fired the gun into Mr. Grant's back."

      Burris said the bullet went through Grant's lower back and ricocheted
      off the ground up into his lungs, killing him.

      BART's 206 sworn officers attend the same academies and training
      programs as city police and sheriff's deputies. According to BART's
      Web site, its requirements go beyond state guidelines, as every
      officer applicant must have completed at least a year of college.

      Police have one video of the incident in evidence, different from
      the video that local media have released, and the quality of that
      video makes it hard to reach a sure conclusion, Gee said.

      "It's not clear to me why the officer felt he needed to shoot. I
      don't know, and from my perspective it doesn't matter," Burris said.

      Two authorities on police use of deadly force, both former law
      enforcement officers, said the newly discovered tape leaves
      unanswered questions.

      KTVU Video: Cell phone video shows shooting

      "Strictly on the basis of this video, it is impossible to determine
      whether the shooting was justified because the officer who fired the
      shot might have seen some imminent threat to his or others' lives that
      the camera does not detect at that distance, angle and resolution,"
      said Michael Scott, a University of Wisconsin law professor, former
      police chief in Florida and co-author of "Deadly Force: What We Know."

      Scott said he watched the video several times. If there was a threat,
      he wrote in an e-mail to the Times, it "would most likely have to be
      a firearm or other weapon in the possession of Mr. Grant. However,
      if it turns out that Mr. Grant had no such weapon, it is awfully
      difficult to imagine what might have justified the use of deadly

      Curtis Cope agreed that the tape doesn't show enough to draw clear

      "There are so many things we don't know," said Cope, a former 30-year
      law enforcement officer who has conducted police training and provides
      expert testimony in police procedure cases. "We certainly don't know
      the reason why they decided to put him prone on the ground. We don't
      know what reactions were taking place, what orders were being given
      and whether or not he is then complying or not complying. "... You
      need to look at every possible angle of it. Those angles all take

      Grant was a butcher at popular Oakland grocery store Farmer Joe's
      and a loving father, family members said Sunday.

      "He was so happy with his daughter," said Lita Gomez, sister to the
      mother of Grant's child. "You could see he was just so happy when he
      looked at her. Now, he's not going to be there for kindergarten. He's
      not going to be there for her prom. He's not going to be there for
      her wedding. She was robbed of that."

      Family members erected a memorial for Grant outside the Fruitvale BART
      station Saturday night, where they said they plan to continue honoring
      his memory for 10 days.

      A public funeral service is planned for 11 a.m. Wednesday at Palma
      Ceia Baptist Church, 28605 Ruus Road in Hayward, family members said.

      Gee asked anyone with information on the shooting to call BART
      investigators at 877-679-7000, ext. 7040, or the Alameda County
      district attorney's office at 510-272-6222.

      Staff writer John Simerman contributed to this report.

      Deadly force:

      Officer David Betancourt, a 22-year law enforcement veteran, shot a
      naked Bruce Seward outside the Hayward BART station before dawn on
      Memorial Day in 2001. Seward, 42, was asleep on a bench and appeared
      unconscious. After calling for an ambulance, Betancourt approached
      when Seward woke up, grabbed the officer's nightstick and swung,
      smacking the patrol car, police said. Betancourt used pepper spray on
      Seward, but it had no effect, police said. Family members and mental
      health advocates decried the shooting, but a BART review cleared
      Betancourt of wrongdoing.

      BART police Officer Fred Crabtree was cleared of wrongdoing after he
      shot an unarmed 19-year-old man, Jerrold Hall, from behind at the
      Hayward station in 1992. Crabtree died in 1996, apparently hanging
      himself. Hall's father, Cornelius Hall, sued the agency and won what
      he calls a small settlement.
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