On New Year’s Day 2009, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) policeman Johannes Mehserle shot an unarmed black man as he lay face down on an Oakland, California BART station platform. Oscar Grant died the next morning. Like the Rodney King beating, the event was video-recorded by bystanders. As a result, there is absolutely no doubt Oscar Grant was face down, policemen kneeling on him, when Mehserle drew his pistol and shot Grant in the back at point blank range.
When a Los Angeles jury found Mehserle guilty of the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter, instead of voluntary manslaughter or second degree murder, Oakland rioted.
An isolated case? Hardly. If you have a strong stomach, then Google “police brutality.” You will be astounded by scenes of unnecessary violence and videos of policemen using clubs and fists to beat women and children, the aged, and other defenseless citizens. The videos include a prone man being kicked in the head, an innocent young man slammed into a wall, leaving him in a coma, and a handcuffed woman being beaten in a police station. Other stories include a 15-year-old shot and killed while he was playing “cops and robbers,” an “unruly” 11-year-old child Tasered at school, a 15-year-old Tasered to death, and a citizen beaten by Scott Crawford, a Chicago policeman accused of brutality on seven occasions.
Even worse are policemen using deadly force — their guns — to kill unarmed people. The same day that Officer Mehserle shot Oscar Grant, seven New Orleans policemen shot Adolph Grimes fourteen times. He was hit twelve times in the back. And now there is the killing of Erik Scott by three Las Vegas policemen.
An army veteran, Erik Scott graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in the class of 1994, earned a Masters Degree from Duke, and was engaged in a career selling medical devices for Boston Scientific. On July 10th, Scott and his girlfriend were shopping in a Las Vegas Costco when an employee noticed he had a gun under his shirt and demanded he leave the store. Scott protested, saying he had a concealed weapon license, but the employee insisted and Scott left. The employee called the Las Vegas police anyway. When Scott reached the parking lot, he was confronted by three policemen with drawn guns. Scott tried to comply with their various demands, but they shot him in the chest and leg.
When Scott fell, the three Las Vegas policemen shot him five more times — in the back.
Testimony at the coroner’s inquest was confused, but Scott family lawyer Ross Goodman has a list of 25 eyewitnesses who will testify Erik Scott did not threaten the three policemen. Goodman did not bring his witnesses to the inquest because he feared that the district attorney’s office, which works closely with police and questions inquest witnesses, would “browbeat” them. The coroner’s verdict was that the killing of Erik Scott was justified. The family will sue the police.
Is police brutality increasing? Judging from the number of photographs and videos on the internet, it appears it is rising all across the country — or that Americans are finally outraged by police excesses.