The former BART officer that shot Oscar Grant at the Oakland Fruitvale BART Station on New Year’s Day was charged with murder.  The conclusion by Oakland police, contained in a legal filing made public Wednesday, contributed to Alameda County prosecutors’ decision to charge Mehserle, 27, with the murder of Oscar Grant.

“After careful analysis of the video, it is clear that both Grant’s hands were behind his back, a position hands are commonly placed in by police officers in order to handcuff individuals,” the police filing said. It concluded that “Grant had been restrained and unarmed when shot.”

It is highly likely that no charges would have been brought against the officer had the incident not been filmed by several BART passengers, posted on YouTube, and ultimately reported on the local news.  In other words, it is likely that this officer would have gotten away with murder as little as 5 years ago, before video capabilities were available on cell phones and digital cameras.

Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that a BART police officer shot a young man named Oscar Grant on New Year’s day at Oakland’s Fruitvale BART station.  The event was videotaped by several witnesses with cell phone cameras and one clearly shows the police officer shooting Grant in the back while he is in a prone position almost “execution” style.  The video is pretty incriminating to say the least.  Last night, protests against the shooting turned violent with demonstrators smashing storefronts and cars, setting several cars ablaze and blocking streets in downtown Oakland.

It would be hyperbole to call what happened last night a riot, but this did remind me of the Rodney King Riots in Los Angeles.  The scary thing is that the Oakland violence happened *before* the officer that shot the kid has been even investigated or brought to justice.  In contrast, the King riots occurred after the officers involved in the King beating were acquitted in a court of law.  I think that civil unrest in Oakland will go from bad to worse unless the city acts quickly to investigate and castigate the injustice.  Violence fills a vacuum.

The sad thing is that just like in Los Angeles, the protesters vandalized businesses that are part of the community, some of which were black owned, and have nothing to do with the BART police.  The BART police is ultimately the power structure responsible for the shooting and it is not associated with the Oakland Police or beholden to the city of Oakland in any way.  If protesters analyzed the situation carefully, they would have sought out BART police cars and burned them all to hell.  Unfortunately, the mob mentality is not that smart.  Sad.

Update: Here are Thomas Hawk’s photos of the violence in Oakland last night
Update: Story of the unrest reaches CNN front page, called a “riot” nationally