On Oscar Grant: What Is the Life of A Young Black Male Worth?

The sorrowful saga of the death of Oscar Grant - shot in the back by a BART cop while lying face down on a subway platform in 2009 - came to a muted close this week when the five friends with Grant that night reached a settlement with BART on a federal lawsuit. Grant, the 22-year-old father of a young daughter, was shot early on New Year's Day after he and his friends were pulled off a train, ostensibly for fighting, and stopped by Bay Area Rapid Transit police at Oakland's Fruitvale Station platform. Grant was pinned to the ground when he was shot by BART officer Johannes Mehserle, a shooting witnessed, recorded and posted online by hundreds of angry bystanders on the train.

Mehserle was eventually convicted of involuntary manslaughter by a jury - with no blacks on it - who accepted his story that he'd mistaken his gun for his taser; the verdict sparked widespread protests and riots. Mehserle served just 12 months before being released. A judge later ruled the six young men had "posed no apparent threat" - except, of course, that they were black.

Under the terms of the settlement, Michael Greer, Fernando Anicete Jr., Nigel Bryson, Jack Bryson Jr., and Carlos Reyes will split $175,000, which breaks down to $35,000 per person, a fraction of the $1.5 million civil rights lawsuit they had filed claiming excessive force and illegal detainment. In 2011, BART also awarded $2.8 million to Grant's mother Wanda Johnson and his daughter Tatiana.

Grant's shooting and the last routine day of his life were depicted in the meticulous, heartbreaking, award-winning film “Fruitvale Station.” It beautifully captures Grant's humanity, the gritty reality of Oakland - rated the country's fifth most violent city, with an estimated third of its kids suffering from a form of PTSD questionably dubbed "Hood Disease" - and a culture where "one life (is) worth less than another, again and again."


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