New video shows BART cop shooting Hayward man in the back
- Published Sunday, January 4, 2008, by the Oakland Tribune
New video shows BART officer shooting Hayward man in the back
By Sean Maher
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
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.
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.