Public Comment

Grant Apologists Are Loud, But Wrong

By David Jackson
Wednesday February 18, 2009 - 06:15:00 PM

Just had the opportunity to read J. Douglas Allen-Taylor’s Jan. 28 column in the Daily Planet (“Justice Coalitions Fracturing in Oscar Grant Case”) about the BART Police officer’s accidental shooting of the convicted criminal Oscar Grant on New Year’s Day. 

You noted: 

“[I]t was a second BART officer—identified by KTVU as Tony Pirone—who appears to have precipitated the events that led up to the shooting, walking aggressively across the Fruitvale BART platform to confront Mr. Grant and then punch him in the side of his head. Prior to Mr. Pirone’s appearance, Mr. Grant and two Latino companions were standing up against the platform wall and being detained by a female BART police officer, with no apparent problems.” 

I realize that yours is an opinion piece, and as such does not require being rooted in facts; you can guess and be right. 

The problem is that Tony Pirone didn’t precipitate the events. Oscar Grant did. 

Oscar Grant was a convicted felon who was in possession of drugs. He continually antagonized and resisted the female officer’s attempts to detain him. He continually reached in his pockets, despite being warned not to. 

The sympathy for poor Oscar Grant is compelling. I agree that he did not deserve to die for his criminal actions that night. There is no death penalty for simply being a petty criminal. 

But Oscar Grant was not an innocent bystander that night. He was the reason the police were there. And is anybody stupid enough to think the police went to the Fruitvale station to murder Oscar Grant that night? 

I have heard many of the angry comments about this poor family man being victimized that night. 

Why wasn’t the family man home with his wife and child that night instead of being out with his friends? If Oscar Grant was such a devoted family man, why had he been incarcerated for two of his child’s four years? 

Oscar Grant had twelve separate police cases in the span of the past four years. (New Year’s morning was to be his lucky thirteenth, had he lived.) 

I know Tony Pirone. He is a stand-up guy with a great wife and two young daughters. He is a family man, and he is an outstanding police officer. For the few years that our family has known him, he has always shown himself to be an intelligent, friendly, caring person— a great family man and a great friend. 

And he is everything that a police officer should be. 

That this case is being tried in the press and in public is just the way it is; you can’t stop it from happening. But to make Tony Pirone out as something he isn’t because you think you know what happened is wrong. You weren’t there. You saw some grainy videos. You heard people say some things. And you guessed at the truth. 

Your opinion is your opinion, and the truth is the truth. And there is a difference between the two. 

There are quite a few people angry about what happened that morning. But many more are angry about how the officers are being portrayed, rather than what happened to Oscar Grant. The Oscar Grant apologists are louder and more destructive, and they make a better story, but that doesn’t make them any less wrong. 


David Jackson is an East Bay resident.