Oscar Grant's Death at BART Station
Backstory and Context
Oscar Grant was a 22-year old retail worker and young father (Bulwa, Demian, 2018). Oscar was born and raised in Hayward, California. He was the son of Wanda Johnson, a United Parcel Service Supervisor (Bulwa, Demian, 2018). She raised Oscar without any help from his father who was serving life in jail for murder (Bulwa, Demian, 2018). Grant worked multiple jobs including KFC, a marketplace, and a medicine delivery service, but his hope was to become a barber (Bulwa, Demian, 2018).
On New Year's Day 2009, Grant was at the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station in Oakland, California, when a fight a fight broke out on one of the BART trains coming from San Francisco (McLauglin). BART police officer Johannes Mehserle pulled his weapon as two other police pinned Grant face down on the ground (McLauglin). As Mehserle drew his gun, he shot the unarmed Grant in the back. The next morning, Oscar Grant was pronounced dead at the Highland Hospital in Oakland (McLauglin). The shooting was recorded by multiple witnesses on their cellphones and was shared widely social media. Days after the shooting, violent and peaceful protest took place (McLauglin)..
Johannes Mehserle was sentenced to a two year sentence in prison,though he was released early after only serving 11 months(“Ex-BART”, 2011).When Mehserle was set free, it refueled resentment within the black community given the seemingly light consequences for the killing of Oscar Grant. The video of the shooting continued to circulate on social media after Johannes was released, drawing global attention and outcry.
Many in the black community saw Mehserle's light sentence as unfair. The shooting sparkled multiple debates about racism and police brutality ("Ex-BART",2011). Protesters that attended Mehserle's trial began to speak publicly, while the killing of Grant awakened many people to the issue of police brutality. The Tragedy drew so much attention that it became the subject of a 2013 feature film, "Fruitvale Station".
Bulwa, Demian, and Rachel Swan. “10 Years since Oscar Grant's Death: What Happened at Fruitvale Station?” SFChronicle.com, San Francisco Chronicle, 28 Dec. 2018,www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/10-years-since-Oscar-Grant-s-death-What-13489585.php.
“Ex-BART Officer Johannes Mehserle Released after 11 Months in Prison.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 13 June 2011, www.nbcnews.com/id/43376251/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/t/ex-bart-officer-johannes-mehserle-released-after-months-prison/#.XLpGxOjYrnE.
McLaughlin, Michael. “Ex-Officer Who Killed Unarmed Black Man Wins Lawsuit.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 7 Dec. 2017, www.huffpost.com/entry/oscar-grant-lawsuit-bart-officer_n_5548719.