Three clips, the first a TV news report so you’ll have an idea of what happened and then two different close-ups via cell phone. The shooting comes at 1:15 of the second video and 2:55 of the third. In brief: It’s early New Year’s Day, there’s a fight on the Oakland subway, the transit cops come and pull a few men aside, one of whom is Grant. He ends up sitting against a wall, then two cops maneuver him face down, presumably to cuff him. There’s a slight struggle, whereupon one of them stands, pulls his pistol — and fires, sending his colleagues backpedaling in shock. Look closely in the second clip and you’ll see that even Mehserle, the cop who pulled the trigger, seems surprised. The theory is that he meant to grab his taser and wasn’t paying attention, but (a) the gun’s in his hand for a second or two before he shoots and (b) the other cop appears to still be holding Grant down. Wouldn’t that have transferred the zap from the taser into his body?
The bullet went through Grant’s back, bounced off the floor, and ended up in his lung. He died a few hours later. There have been demonstrations ever since, with Mehserle first being put on paid leave and then quitting the force on Wednesday. It happened in full view of dozens of people, obviously, so it’s hard to believe it was deliberate, but all I can come up with by way of explanation is that he had some sort of brain freeze.
You’re watching a man die here so please observe this, your official content warning. Exit question for our police readers: Have you ever absentmindedly reached for your taser and grabbed your pistol instead? If so, don’t they feel sufficiently different in your hand that you’d know instantly? Are the two weapons even on the same side of your belt?