Moments before he was killed, Oscar Grant was punched in the face — but not by the BART officer who shot him.
A new cellphone video shows another BART officer punching Grant just before he was shot by BART Officer Johannes Mehserle, who was arrested on murder charges nearly two weeks ago.
The grainy video raises new questions about what role BART officers played in escalating the scene, which began when Grant was pulled off a San Fransisco Bay Area Rapid Transit Authority train on New Year’s Day. Six days letter, protests turned to riots in Oakland, Ca.
The officer who punched Grant in the face is the same officer who investigators say had his knee on Grant’s neck when the 22-year-old man was shot. Aside from Mehserle, no BART officers have been charged with wrongdoings.
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“There’s no question in my mind that that’s vivid powerful evidence that he committed a vicious physical assualt, unprovoked on a citizen, for absolutely no reason,” said UC Hastings and Golden Gate law professor Peter Keane, who believes the officer should be fired and charged with assault. “That punch was totally unjustified… That officer is committing a crime.”
BART General Manager Dorothy Dugger has pledged to investigate the officer’s actions in the new video.
“I take this new allegation of police use of unreasonable force extremely seriously,” Dugger said in a prepared statement released Saturday night, KTVU.com reported. “I have directed (BART) Police Chief Gary Gee to conduct a rigorous internal affairs investigation into this officer’s actions.”
U.C. Berkeley law school professor Franklin Zimring said the district attorney must charge another BART officer with a crime. “If the district attorney is saying he’s not going to charge any officer except Mehserle in my opinion, he’s not doing his job,” Zimring says in the video below. “Police officers are not…immunized from the normal laws that govern when assault is criminal conduct.”
Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff would not comment on the possibility of charging a second BART police officer, KTVU.com reported.
Although unmentioned in the KTVU report, the video could potentially incriminate another BART officer. Since the female officer is shown in the video observing her colleague punching Grant, she would have been required to report what she saw to authorities.
This video is from KTVU, broadcast Jan. 25, 2009.
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