January 04, 2009

On Home Ground

At about 2am New Year's Day, at my local BART station (Fruitvale), BART police shot and killed a passenger while he was face down on the platform in custody and being stood over by several BART police officers; he was not at that point apparently being violent, nor was he armed; the guy had been in a fight in the train. BART stonewalled about the shooting. So far, so normal.

But since it all happened in front of a BART train full of people, cell phone videos of the actual shooting and the associated mayhem have started to emerge, and dozens of witnesses have come forward saying essentially the same thing — that the victim was shot fatally in the back once by a police officer who was standing behind and above him while he was on the ground, in custody, and not being violent. You can see the mayhem yourself on YouTube without a lot of effort: this is the "semi-official" version (taken from a KTVU interview with the woman who took it)), but the more incriminating video also shown on TV news last night (where you see the actual shooting itself, with both the cop involved and the victim quite visible) doesn't appear to have made it to YouTube. BART's still stonewalling — something that's not so smart in the age of cellphone video and YouTube, maybe.

(Fruitvale BART station has a long history of violence, and shootings there aren't exactly novel, but I think what I don't understand is why there wasn't a riot at that point and why the police officers weren't simply ripped to shreds or thrown off the raised platform by the crowd…).

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At 1/06/2009 4:20 pm, Blogger Angela Natividad said...

Because everybody was too busy capturing history... or something.

I learned in school that if a group of people witnesses a person in need, or a violent crime, most will just congregate and stare, no matter how much time elapses. Because of this phenomenon, people in danger are encouraged to point to someone and shout, "YOU! Call the POLICE!"

I suppose it's no different in the era of video phones and YouTube; the only difference, I guess, is people now have an excuse to stand around letting injustice happen: I'm a citizen journalist, bitch.

At 1/06/2009 5:48 pm, Blogger Jimmy Little said...

Yeah, there's that — all that — and the confusion too (it was apparently very difficult for people there to work out what was happening as it happened, given that most people were stuck inside the train). Plus they apparently shut the BART doors almost instantly and whisked everyone off to the Coliseum before anyone woke up to what had happened….

In the absence of video phones and YouTube, though, who'd know? The BART police apparently tried to take the woman's camera at the scene; and BART didn't quite tell the truth about its own videos, either.

Oh well. I'm still angry and upset a week later — I've stood dozens of times right where that guy was shot on the platform. They still haven't even interviewed the police officer who did the shooting…


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