This site is devoted to increasing public awareness of police misconduct and detainee abuse in addition to providing support for victims of police misconduct and detainee abuse. If you or someone you know have witnessed abuse or have been abused, please let us know.


This site is an archive of older content.

Please feel free to visit our new effort at

Thank you for visiting.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Video Analysis - Was Pirone Justified When He Punched Oscar Grant

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?


Five Before Midnight said...

I don't think you can blog to much about any case including the Grant case because there's always things happening and different issues to look at more closely.

I think Pirone was the aggressor throughout. Whether he's charged with a PC 149 or not, I guess remains to be seen.

Oakland is in the same region of the DOJ Community Relations Division as my city is and the guy had just come back from Oakland when he came to Riverside to witness a rally over the death of a young mother shot in the back by sheriff deputies as she tried to run to her house. We were talking about the problems with BART and Oakland Police Department. Very interesting, if very troubling.

Packratt said...

I suppose not, that and I really haven't seen anyone counter these latest claims in the media aside from the Grant family's lawyer who is simply quoted as saying the claims are "bogus". Really? One wonders why the press isn't bothering to analyze this video on it's own to see if those claims really stand up before printing them?

Anyway, I'm really impressed that the DOJ CRD rep in your area takes the time to actually talk to people about what's going on, I think that is a very encouraging sign. Out here, nothing at all...

Of course, up here, it's like pulling teeth to even get the supposed civil rights organizations to say anything about police misconduct or detainee abuse, it's like they condone it.

Just plain frustrating, like being a lone voice in the wilderness in Seattle.

But, from reading all the different accounts of what's going on in Oakland, it's little wonder that the DOJ wouldn't have a LOT to talk about, sadly enough.

Take care, and thank you again for the info!!!

Anonymous said...

Packratt, I'm interested in knowing if you watched the video in slow motion or real time? Also, watching the Karina Vargas (uncut video), what is your interpretation of the scenes with Pirone/Grant?
I find it interesting that watching the Vargas video in slow motion, Pirone's hand is open not closed fisted like a punch. Just wondering your perspective.

Packratt said...

Sadly, the Vargas video is too obscured when Pirone strikes Grant to get a good image of exactly what happens.

I thought that video was too blurred to make any determination as to whether Pirone's hand was open or closed at the time as well. Even if his hand may have been open when he pulled back, he still could have closed it into a balled fist as he came forward.

It isn't uncommon for people trained in martial arts to start a strike open handed and then close into a fist as they throw their punch forward in order to get more "snap" to their strike.

But, again, from the perspective of the Vargas video it's impossible to determine whether Pirone's strike was open handed or closed fisted.

But, from the other video, it is clear that the strike was hard enough to snap Grant's head backwards and to the right and that this hit stunned Grant enough to buckle his knees, indicating a temporary loss of consciousness.

Either way, what the Vargas video and other video does show is that none of the men, especially Grant, posed any threat to the officers which would have prompted such a blow.

Thank you for the comment.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the quick response! In the Vargas video, I also noted that Grant gets between the female officer & the two suspects she's trying to keep up against the wall, time wise, does that coincide with when Officer Pirone got involved? I guess I'm just trying to get a better mental image of what's going on from both angles. It would be great if someone would put the two/three tapes on a split screen so you can see them together.
Also, if it was a full on punch wouldn't grant have a black eye or bruising? Did anyone mention that, or maybe it will show up in the autopsy report?
Thanks for listening to all my questions. This has been the only place I can ask these questions without people thinking i'm "defending" anything.

Packratt said...

No problem...

The only possible justification that I can see for officer Pirone's involvement is as follows:

In both videos the man standing to the left of Grant appears to come forward from the wall and the female officer pushes him backwards.

At this point, Grant takes one step forward away from the wall but does not get pushed back by the female officer, perhaps because he is further away and has not come as close as the person to his left did to the female officer and was not deemed as a threat by her when he did so.

However, Grant's step forward comes before Pirone stands and starts to approach the group away from the person he detained on the platform.

So, if the female officer told the person to Grant's left to step back when she pushed him and Pirone heard this, he might have perceived Grant to be the person the officer had ordered to stand back and misinterpreted his failure to step back as refusal to obey a command... even though the command was given to the man to his left, not him.

The problem with this theory is that it does not explain why Pirone immediately went hands-on with Grant instead of ordering him back first in order to give him a chance to comply, especially given he was not currently a threat to either officer or others.

It was that immediate jump to using force, by grabbing Grant and shaking him, that gives the appearance of an officer losing his temper rather than an officer who is responding to a failure to obey a command when first given.

But, even more troublesome is the question of why Grant wasn't handcuffed immediately following Pirone's initial engagement with him if Pirone felt that Grant had attempted to assault him. This in itself gives the strongest appearance of contradiction to the currently proposed version of events given by Pirone's lawyer.

As for the split-screened videos, I think that's a great idea, but I can't post that since KTVU has claimed exclusive rights to both existing videos, thus why I only give links to those videos instead of posting them.

Ultimately, I'm interested in the truth of the matter... Officers Mehserle and Pirone are alive to give their accounts and have attorneys who give press statements as they wish, but Oscar Grant has neither. The officers will have their day in court, if it comes to that, and chances to appeal any disciplinary action take by the department, if they choose to pursue that... But Grant will have neither, so I'm just examining the evidence and presenting what I see.

But, personally, I'd rather this not be a case of misconduct, it's too disturbing to think of this as a case of intentional murder... but, the evidence so far is pretty disturbing and, to this point, appears to contradict many facets of the explanations given so far.

Thank you for the comment, I do appreciate it...

(and so long as it's done civilly and reasonably, I don't mind it if people give an opposing viewpoint here and I don't tolerate harassment or threats from either side.)

Anonymous said...

I came across this broadcast, what do you think?

gives a pretty interesting viewpoint. Just thought I'd post it to you since we had a past convo on this subject.

Clicky Web Analytics