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.