The Mehserle Effect—Vallejo Shooting Tests Era of Police Accountability

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VALLEJO, Calif.—In the Bay Area, the veneer of police impunity seems to be thinning even as high-profile cases of police shooting unarmed black men – in Oakland and nearby Vallejo -- continue to occur.

Aftershocks following the killing of Oscar Grant Jr. by ex-BART transit officer Johannes Mehserle have shaken up the landscape of police and community relations in the Bay Area. The age-old idea that, when it comes to black males, police could get away with anything is being challenged.

Mehserle’s trial and guilty verdict, though probably only partial justice (he’ll do about a year when it’s all said and done) may have opened a crack in the blue shield of silence that has protected police from ever being held accountable. Grant was killed in front of a 21st century audience. The scene of Grant being shot in the back by Mehserle is seared into the public memory, because it was virally-enhanced, and things have changed for the better – in the short term.

Weeks after Mehserle was sentenced to two years for involuntary manslaughter in the slaying of Grant he was denied bail.

It was a miracle that the Alameda County District Attorney even filed a case against Mehserle. And that is the difference between now and years past. Inside actors – officials sworn to uphold the law are questioning suspicious police-involved shootings more than ever before.

Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts made headlines recently when he asked for a federal investigation into two of his officers involved in the shooting death of an unarmed East Oakland barbershop owner. The same team of OPD killed an unarmed woman in 2008.

And, as if to underscore this budding new era of police accountability, officials in Oakland -- including the newly elected mayor Jean Quan -- participated in a meeting designed to address police brutality recently hosted by the NAACP.

Now, the case that could break the trend or add full moon energy to the movement for justice involves a 33-year-old black man, community activist, student and mentor who was gunned down in a lonely alley in Vallejo, Calif.

Guy Jarreau Jr. was shot and killed by a Vallejo Police Department officer Saturday, Dec. 10 in the early afternoon. He had lived in Vallejo eight years after coming from New Orleans. 

According to eyewitnesses interviewed by New America Media, Jarreau had his hands up facing the officer who shot him twice.

“…I didn’t hear no warning, no nothing,” said Martin L'Esperance, a witness and friend of Jarreau “We were shooting a video on Sonoma walking back and forth with the cameras. Guy was with us. He was security for us, he was there watching us, directing us – telling us what we should do in the video. The cops just pulled up on us, told him (Mr. Jarreau) to stop – everyone was walking away, he (Mr. Jarreau) walked into the alley. The cop just came onto the sidewalk pointed into the alley and shot twice.

“After that they told us all to get on the ground…they handcuffed us all – we was like “Is he ok? Is Guy ok? And a cop said: ‘I don’t give a f—k if he lives or he dies.’ That’s what the cop said. Then he said ‘If you say something else we’ll shoot you too.’ …Guy didn’t have a gun,” said L'Esperance.

L'Esperance and other eyewitness accounts contrast with the Vallejo Police Department’s story. According to an official press release: “Officers arrived on scene at 3:01 p.m. and observed the suspect flee into a nearby alley. The officers confronted the man, who was now holding the firearm. In self defense, the officer fired on the suspect, striking him at least once. The suspect was taken via air ambulance to a Bay Area trauma center, where he was later pronounced dead.”

According to witnesses, Jarreau lay on the ground for close to 45 minutes before he received help.

Time will tell whether or not the Solano County District Attorney will look at this case with the scrutiny it deserves. If officials do act, Vallejo will join, Oakland, Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans in pursuing justice by holding police responsible for their actions. It is a moment of momentum for accountability that black communities across the country should welcome.

 

Comments

 
Anonymous

Posted Dec 21 2010

I do not think we can wait for accountability from the system the way it is run now. It is time for a general strike of working class people, especially people of color we have the power to shut down every thing. There are more of us now more then ever if we refuse to work, refuse to spend our money with businesses that take rather then give, and we take those resources and start our own businesses, schools, and become the community we are meant to be.

Anonymous

Posted Dec 21 2010

I would like to see the officer who cold bloodily murdered Guy Jarreau taken off the streets. In other words, I want his badge! It's obvious that he has a serious problem and this should be addressed immediately before he harms someone else. Some police reports stated he was placed on 3 day administrative leave and another said he was on administrative leave. Since his name was never released, there is no way the public can verify his status. The blue paper cup of water that Guy was holding at the time the police officer shot him has been retrieved. How does a blue paper cup look like a gun?

Anonymous

Posted Dec 22 2010

What ever. He was "security" in Vallejo, California but not armed. I have crack for free for you, get in line. Unreal how you view this. If police drove up and you ran, why? Why not just stay there and explain to them you are shooting a movie without the proper permits and take the ticket? Oh yes because you are armed and tried to hide in an alley. I would rather be judged by 12 than carried out by 6. Do you understand that line? Thank you to Vallejo police for protecting the city as much as you can. Some law abiding citizens appreciate it.

Anonymous

Posted Dec 26 2010

Have you guys forgotten that this guy had a gun on him? This isn't even telling details on what happened but yet you have the audacity to assume shit.

Anonymous

Posted Dec 31 2010

The Police are here for the protection of all people of the community. When you are involved with the Police, your next move is to comply. Why is it ? White people aren't fighting, struggleing with running from the Police? Would things had been different if Oscar Grant would have just complied? If Rodney king did not go on a 100 MPH chase? I don't believe that the Police should have to put up with & fight with every person to comply. If you do? You should pay the price. Unless? Your retarded or an idiot take resposability for your actions and your family members actions. Raise your own family its not the states job. When your family member is wrong, don't go on TV & talk about the Police who are trying to protect the law abideing. Oscar Grant was not a model citizen he was a criminal look at his record. I hope his family run into someone just like him, see who they call ?

Anonymous

Posted Jan 12 2011

The guy the officer accidentally killed was a criminal and you and everyone else knows it.

Anonymous

Posted Jan 12 2011

The guy the officer accidentally killed was a criminal and you and everyone else knows it.

Anonymous

Posted Jun 21 2011

If there are any eyewitness(es) to the murder of Guy Jarreau, Jr., the family asks that you please come forward and give your statement(s)! Also, please show your support by attending the monthly vigils, which are held on the 11th, at the exact location where he was murdered by the Vallejo Police. His mother, Andrea Jarreau-Griffin, as well as other family members and friends are continuing the fight for justice!

Anonymous

Posted Nov 17 2011

That's great to second guess trained and sworn professionals doing a difficult job but what about the other side of the coin:
Black males killing each other with impunity? What about the recent spate of home invasions,burglaries, and thefts from large groups of Asian American victims in a particular section of Oakland. 100% of those cases the victims reported African American suspects. The nature of these crimes exactly fit the requirements of a "hate crime" (Look this up in the Ca. Penal Code).But why are these victims not being reported by the media as hate crime victims? Even more: why are not the police labeling these at hate crimes?

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