The Tragedy that Inspired 'Fruitvale Station'

Michael B. Jordan in Fruitvale Station
Michael B. Jordan in Fruitvale Station
Photo: The Weinstein Co.

What I'm about to write could be considered a spoiler for Fruitvale Station, but I will tell you I knew these details going in and it didn't spoil the film for me in the least. That said, the reason I'm posting this is to offer a companion piece to my review of the film, in which I reference the events described below, but it wasn't the right place or time to go into further detail.

As for the story that inspired the film, in the early morning hours of January 1, 2009, a group of friends were returning home from celebrating New Year's Eve in San Francisco on the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system. Among that group of friends was 22-year-old Oscar Grant who got into an altercation aboard the train resulting in the BART police being called to the Fruitvale Station where the train had just stopped.

Upon their arrival the BART police detained Grant and a couple of his friends and while attempting to restrain him, with his face down on the ground and one Officer Caruso's knee on his head, Officer Johannes Mehserle pulled out his gun and shot Grant once in the back. Grant died that morning of the resulting gun shot wound.

During the trial, Mehserle would testify he intended to use his Taser and not his gun. He was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and not guilty of second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter. He would ultimately serve 11 months of a two-year sentence.

Giving the story a disturbing level of reality, the altercation between police and Grant was caught on video from several cell phone cameras from other passengers on the train and Fruitvale Station actually opens with one of those videos, the one below in fact.

I'm including this video now, but I want you to know it is tough to watch, but like I said, it opens the film so you're sure to see it sooner or later and if your theater has a sound system anything like the one I saw the film at here in Cannes, Coogler's recreation of this event absolutely surrounds and envelopes you making it almost as disturbing as the real thing.

You can read my review of the film right here.

  • Chris

    Wow. This is real disturbing. Crazy that I haven't heard about it till they made a movie based upon the incident.

  • Hamza Zain

    Wow, that's brutal and horrifying. I have other words for it.

  • tonya maxwell

    this is very disturbing knowing that an officer of the law did this to someone. they should have lock his ass up and threw away the key for good.he took someones child away from here because of his stupidity and should have paid for worser than he did. why is he out right now. i think this case should be retried again because there is not anyway that a jury just let this police officer just get off that easy, there is no way impossible. why didnt this hit national tv like other cases do. this should have a been a big casethat should have been showed to the world before this movie came out. this is no accuse for our police department that suppose to protect and serve

    • G Lopez

      Tonya Maxwell, read a dictionary!

  • Jules

    It is very disturbing and terrible that this young man lost his life, but to make it out as a case of police brutality is making a very complex issue into a simple one. I grew up in Oakland. I love Oakland. But the truth is, it is a crappy place to do the crappy job of being a police officer. This police officer was young, relatively inexperienced and a member of the BART police, which is our public transit system. I guarantee you this young man did not say to himself, " Well, even though I have a baby due any minute now, I think I will just ruin my life by shooting and killing a young black man while he is cuffed on the ground." Oscar's death, while tragic, was unintentional. The media naturally ran with it, but this was not the case of an intentional killing of a black man. It was a case of accidental death. He immediately expressed shock that he had shot Oscar--they don't show that in the video.

    • G Lopez

      Well said

    • catherinetodd

      So what if the "young, inexperienced police officer" was "shocked" after he killed this young man. If he was so "inexperienced" he shouldn't have had a gun on him. No excuse. One more reason our police are too militarized. Killing citizens in the blink of an eye... the kid probably didn't need to be tazed in the first place. The police turned a young man's brawl into a murder. That officer should have gotten life. Maybe that would wake the police up to the fact that they too are going to be held to the same standard as the rest of us!

  • T Stamp

    Jules and Lopez I agree the officer did not leave his home that day saying, I think I will kill a young black man today. However what you can not and never will be able to minimize, justify or call ACCIDENTAL is a trained officer transit or other wise. Upholstering unlocking and firing his weapon on a man who was laying on his belly with his hands handcuffed behind his back while another officer had his knee on his neck!!! Especially when the only reason they decided to cuff him in the first place was after he took a photo of them with his cell phone and they wanted to take it from him to delete the picture! He had done nothing to require them to cuff him he and the other 3 detainees where sitting voluntarily without resisting. So involuntary manslaughter my ASS and he served 1 year out of a measly 2 year sentence and was able to go,home to his child unlike the young man who is dead.

  • fred wilson's ok for Bartman to make a mistake that costs a life?!?
    I also think Zimmerman meant to shoot Trayvon in the pinkie finger!
    This world just promotes whatever selective outrage it can get the most
    press with. F the entire media. I don't ever want to see the cute little
    pictures of Trayvon...buying Skittles...doing all kinds of sweet "little boy"
    things. It's a tragedy he was killed, but he was doing just a little bit more
    than skipping through the neighborhood with a basket of goodies.

  • cj shepherd

    Fred Wilson, in the past two days I have heard some really stupid statements regarding Trayvon Martin and you are among the most stupid. Judging from your comments its apparent your a true racist. It doesn't matter if TM was thowing up gang signs, doing the crip walk, and carrying a television G Zimmerman had no right to shoot him. His, GZ, intentions were not right the moment he got. Out the car. If it had been a white boy in the hood with surfer shorts on and approached by a brother for what ever reason and he was shot I gurantee that brother would be under the jail. Its unfortunate our world is still filled with so many closeted racists. One day you all will be put in the light and your true colors will be out for everyone to see.....even ur black friends

    • charlene mitchell

      I totally agree with you, and I could not convey your comment any better. Peace.

  • Abrams

    TStamp and CJ Shepherd, I couldn't have put the words any better. All of those scary undercover in the closet ones will get their day. I'm laughing at them because they look stupid.

  • aunia johnson

    Hello my name is Aunia Johnson im from pgh pa i just watched the movie how can i contact the family