George Bush today commuted the sentences of Jose Compeán and Ignacio Ramos, two former Border Patrol agents who shot an unarmed fleeing marijuana smuggler and then tried to cover up the incident.
The two officers were arrested after the drug smuggler, Osvaldo Aldrete Dávila, filed a complaint against them. After a two-week jury trial, Compeán was found guilty on 11 counts, including discharging a firearm during the commission of a violent crime, which by itself carries a federally mandated 10-year minimum sentence. Without that charge, both agents involved would have received far shorter sentences. Instead, Compeán was sentenced to 12 years in prison, and his partner, Ignacio Ramos, was sentenced to 11 years in prison.
Our laws don’t permit the police to shoot unarmed suspects just because they are fleeing or uncooperative. We don’t recognize the “ley de fuga” or “law of flight” in this country. Dávila was only wounded in the buttocks, but not for lack of trying by Compeán and Ramos. Had he died, they would have been murderers.
In the above video* you can see BART police officer Johannes Mehserle and another officer place an unarmed man named Oscar Grant III face down on a Oakland train platform. There are several other officers in the area as well. For unexplained reasons (he refused to make a statement) Mehserle stands up, draws his pistol and shoots Grant in the back, killing him.
Mehserle has been charged with murder, which is highly unusual in police shootings. Even when charges are filed, convictions are rare. One can’t help but wonder if the charges would have been filed had their not been numerous videos of the incident.
I have to take issue with the idea that cops and soldiers should be held to a lower standard of behavior because they are “good guys” or because they have tough jobs. If we are going to give anyone the power of life or death over others, they should be held to a very strict standard.
If they abuse the power and trust that is given to them by lying or using excessive force there should be zero tolerance. Jose Compeán and Ignacio Ramos should remain in prison to serve their full sentences, and Johannes Mehserle should be joining them there.
*Here is another video from a different angle