KTVU Channel 2 introduced the first video it obtained of the New Year's Day shooting at the Fruitvale BART station by saying that it was so disturbing, some viewers might choose to turn away.
The hype was unnecessary.
Though the video taken on a passenger's cell phone isn't of superior quality, it appears to show a shocking scene: A BART police officer shooting a 22-year-old man named Oscar Grant III in the back while other officers hold him down. After the fatal shot is fired, all of the officers, including the shooter, look befuddled.
Yet as jarring as the video is — as are the others making the rounds on the Internet — it is not, as some are claiming, proof that the BART officer who fired his weapon committed murder "in cold blood."
We should feel outrage over the police killing of a young, unarmed man on a train platform. We, the community, the media, must continue to demand answers from BART as well as the Alameda County district attorney's office, which is investigating the killing.
It is an emotional, traumatic thing whenever a young man is killed by police. Especially when, from what we appear to see in the video, Grant did not seem to pose a threat that warranted a police officer to use deadly force.
We must keep up the pressure on BART and the district attorney until we get answers to what happened on that darkened platform. Another protest is scheduled for 3 p.m.
Yet at the same time, we must all be careful to resist the temptation to try this case in the media or on the Internet based on cell phone videos that tell only part of a story in a snapshot in time.
There is too much we don't know.
We don't know what exact information BART police received that made them pull Grant and several other men off the train.
We don't know if Grant was one of the men involved in whatever the initial commotion was.
We don't know what conversation took place between Grant and the officers nor why they decided to restrain him.
We don't know what was going through those officers' minds.
We don't know whether the officer reached for his Taser, as some reports have suggested, but may have accidentally drawn his gun.
We know nothing beyond the videos that have been played and replayed.
What we do know is that 2009 has gotten off to a horrific start for two families. Grant will not see his 4-year-old daughter grow up. His family members must cope with the haunting knowledge that in his final moments, their loved one was forced down on a cold, concrete BART platform and shot in the back. The life of another young man, the BART officer who fired the fatal shot, will never be the same.
He is identified as Johannes Mehserle in some media reports — though BART officials have refused to publicly name him. Mehserle just turned 27 on Monday. His first child was born early this week. It should have been a time of great joy. Instead, in the blink of an eye, Mehserle's life has turned into a nightmare.
Protesters are calling him a murderer.
Something clearly went horribly wrong on that BART platform. Even if, in the best case scenario, it was an accident, that offers no solace to Grant's family. Either way, his young life has been cut terribly, senselessly short. Instead of celebrating the blessings of a New Year, his family is making funeral arrangements.
Grant's family members have hired civil rights attorney John Burris. Burris is filing a $25 million lawsuit alleging that the BART officer violated Grant's civil rights and wrongfully caused his death. The tragedy is: No amount of money, no matter how much the amount, will bring back Grant.
Tammerlin Drummond is a columnist for the Bay Area News Group-East Bay. Her column runs Wednesdays in Metro and Sundays in Opinion. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.