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July 24, 2013 at 6:15 AM

Shootings by King County deputies viewed through the prism of Fruitvale Station

King County Sheriff John Urquhart really must see the movie “Fruitvale Station” which opens in Seattle on Friday.

Fruitvale is based on the real-life slaying of 22-year-old Oscar Grant by an Oakland transit officer in 2009. The cop, Johannes Mehserle, was captured on bystanders’ cellphones standing over Grant, who was pinned to the ground by other cops,  and shooting him point-blank in the back. Mehserle said he mistook his gun for a Taser. He was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and served less than a year.  The movie moves backwards from that fateful night to show the life Oscar Grant lived.

Urquhart needs to see ‘Fruitvale.” It would help with the sheriff’s mission to restore public confidence, following a recent independent report to the King County Council critical of the Sheriff’s Office’s handling of an incident where deputy and a corrections officer shot a man 16 times last year while were searching for another man. Urquhart was on KUOW radio this week calling the 2012 shooting of Dustin Theoharis justified despite the high bullet count. His view is backed by two review panels. Urquhart must cross the blue line and see carnage left by cops and wanna-be cops with itchy trigger fingers.

He must understand what film critic Steven Boone, reviewing Fruitvale for, meant when, paraphrasing The Elephant Man, wrote about Oscar Grant: “(He) was not an animal. He was a human being. He had dreams and feelings. He cared for many people, and many people cared for him.”

Oscar and the lucky to be alive Dustin Theoharis are human beings who did not deserve what they got from the people paid to keep us safe.

I admit to still being raw after George Zimmerman was acquitted for shooting Trayvon Martin, despite stalking the unarmed Florida teen because of a baseless suspicion that the teen might be up to no good.

In King Countly, before Theoharis, there was Christopher Sean Harris, who suffered a catastrophic brain injury after a sheriff’s deputy – who was also looking for someone else – shoved him into a concrete wall in 2009. The county wrote a $10 million settlement check in that case. Urquhart wants county residents to believe in his capacity to change the police department. He even pledges that there will not be a Theoharis on his watch.

A public grown cynical after one too many Oscars, Dustins, Christophers, and yes Trayvons, is appropriately cautious. Urquhart is our new sheriff and he may feel it is unfair to judge him by events that occurred before his tenure. He should go see Fruitvale Station to see what unfair and unjust really looks like.

Comments | Topics: children, crime, King County police


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