BART Police Officers Tony Pirone (left) and Johannes Mehserle (right)
Tony Pirone, the BART police officer who has been accused of punching Oscar Grant in the head before he was shot in the back by Johannes Mehserle, has retained a lawyer and his lawyer has made a public statement suggesting that his client was justified when he struck Grant.
His lawyer, Bill Rapoport, claims that he had a video expert analyze the video which shows Pirone striking Grant and claims that it shows Grant attempting to hit Pirone with his knee at least twice.
So, I decided to take another look myself, using the same video I analyzed when I discovered that Pirone struck Grant the first time to see if his lawyer's claim holds any water.
When watching this video yourself, focus on Grant's legs, specifically, watch his hips and thighs. In order to use a knee strike, one has to bend their legs at the hip and pull the leg up from the hip to at least a 45 degree angle or greater, ideally while swiveling at the hip at the same time. To be an effective knee strike to the groin or torso, the knee needs to come up to 90 degrees, perpendicular to the hip.
00:00 - At the begining of the video, Pirone is holding down a man that he had already handcuffed several feet away from where Oscar Grant and two others are standing against a wall talking with another officer. If Grant was being combative at this time, why didn't the other officer restrain Grant?
00:05 - Pirone stands up and begins walking over to Oscar Grant and the two others standing against the station wall. He doesn't rush which indicates he doesn't sense a threat from the three, nor does it appear as though he feels the three are threatening his fellow officer.
00:06 - Pirone has just about reached Grant and begins to raise his arms towards Grant, signalling an intent to go hands-on as soon as he reaches Grant. Grant cannot knee Pirone at this point and is still turned towards the other officer.
00:07 - Pirone reaches Grant and immediately grabs him by the front of his shirt, there is no hessitation and Grant's legs are clearly visible at this point, with no evidence that Grant attempted to knee Pirone, as Pirone's lawyer claimed.
00:08 - As Pirone begins shaking Grant back and forth, Grant is forced to take a step forward with his right foot in order to keep himself steady, the step forward is clearly an effort to keep his balance and there is still no evidence of an attempted knee strike.
Grant then takes a stutter-step in an effort to keep his balance while still being moved around by Pirone, but his legs remain straight, they don't bend sufficiently enough to be termed a knee-strike.
00:09 - The camera is jostled up which obscures Grant's lower legs, but his thighs are still visible enough to show that he never moves his legs up from his hip, which would be necessary for a knee-strike.
00:10 - At this point Pirone punches Grant in the face so hard that his head snaps back and his legs buckle underneath him and the witnesses from the train audibly gasp. Grant begins to slide down the side of the platform wall while Pirone attempts to hold him up.
00:11-00:13 - The camare jostles too much to get a clear view of what happens for these 2 seconds.
00:14 - Pirone has let go of Grant and appears to order Grant to sit against the platform wall.
00:14-00:17 - Grant complies and slides to a seated position. As Pirone steps forward again he appears to be holding a taser, and Grant puts his hands up, palms out, in supplication.
00:21 - Pirone points what may be a taser at a subject to Grant's right and that person begins to go to the seated position.
00:24 - Pirone takes a few steps back.
00:27 - Another officer approaches from Pirone's left. At this time Prione could have told this officer to restrain Grant, which he should have done if Grant had attempted to strike him, after all, attempting to hit an officer is an arrestable offense and Prione would have put his fellow officers at risk if he didn't have Grant handcuffed at that time.
00:29 - Pirone turns and walks towards the other person who is laying, already handcuffed, a few feet away from Grant.
00:30-00:49 - The camera holder apparently tries to hide his camera or moves to find a better vantage point.
00:49 - Grant is still not handcuffed and officers appear to be focused on a man seated to Grant's left when the camera regains it's vantage point.
00:53 - While Pirone is bent over talking to Grant on Grant's front-right side, an officer who appears to be Mehserle begins struggling with the man on Grant's left and then hits the man on the top of the head with a downward strike of the type that would indicate that he was using a blunt object.
Grant remains seated, witness accounts stated that Grant was attempting to calm the others down at this point. It's difficult to determine whether this strike on the other man by the officer who appears to be Mehserle was warranted or not.
00:53-1:22 Grant and Prione continue to have some sort of discussion that includes some back and forth finger-pointing, but nobody attempts to actually place Grant under arrest and handcuff him.
01:23 - Pirone appears to order Grant's arrest and Mehserle pulls Grants arms behind him while Grant is in a kneeling position. A full minute and 13 seconds has elapsed since Pirone punched Grant in the head. Again, if Pirone's lawyer's claims were true, why take so long before ordering the arrest of Grant?
01:27 - Grant appears to be pushed face first down to the platform floor and Pirone drops down to plant his knee on Grant's neck.
01:27 - 01:30 - What's interesting at this point is that while Mehserle attempts to get Grant's left arm and lets go of Grant's right arm, Grant keeps his right arm behind his back on his own.
If Grant was truly struggling against officers, he would pull his right arm back in or put it under him so he could push up off the officers, but he doesn't, which indicates instead that he is struggling to comply with demands to give officers his other arm, which he might not be able to do since officer Prione has him immobilized with his knee in Grant's neck.
...from this point on, sadly, we know the rest.
From this video, it's fairly clear that Grant did not attempt to knee Pirone and it's clear that Pirone was the aggressor as he grabbed Grant and began to shake him as soon as he reached Grant... and that he did this without provocation, at least without legally justifiable provocation... unless Grant has an invisible leg with an equally invisible knee that can extend outwards to several feet away.
It's also clear that the actions subsequent to Pirone punching Grant do not mesh with Prione's lawyer's account of events since, if Grant had attempted to assault Pirone, he should have been taken into custody and been physically restrained at that point. Instead, Pirone turns his back on Grant and leaves him unrestrained for over a minute before ordering his arrest.
So, why am I bothering posting about the Oscar Grant case again, even when I said I wouldn't and I'm sure that my readers are tired of hearing about it?
Well, honestly, I do think it's very possible for what happened to Oscar Grant to happen to me some day. After all, police officers aren't very happy about what this site is about and sometimes they have problems controlling their tempers.
So, if what happened to Oscar Grant happened to me, I would want someone out there to stick up for me and take the time to make sure that others didn't try to cover up what really happened and that I was defended when the people who harmed me also tried to harm my reputation after my death.
...wouldn't you too?