Remembering Rochester, NY’s Oscar Grants

By Davy V.

As I sat in theater 16, waiting to watch Fruitvale Station, the film about Oscar Grant’s last day, before he was shot and killed by a BART police officer Johannes Mehserle, in Oakland, California, on January 1, 2009, I couldn’t help but wonder if the other 4 people in the theater realized that less than 10 miles from the big movie screen in front of us, the Rochester, NY Police department has the blood on their hands of Rochester’s own Oscar Grants.

Like Denise Hawkins, who was shot and killed by Rochester Police officer Michael Leach, as she ran from her abusive boyfriend.

Or Alicia McCuller, who was shot and killed by Rochester Police officer Thomas L. Whitmore, who, according to neighbors, after shooting McCuller, stood over her, and fired a second shot into her, as she lay dying.

Or Calvin Greene, who was unarmed when Rochester Police officer Gary E. Smith shot him three times, at close range, killing him instantly.

Or Vandy Davis, a 21-year old father of three young children, shot and killed by Rochester Police officer David Gebhardt, who claimed he accidentally tripped over an extension cord, causing his shotgun to go off, striking Davis in the chest,

Or Craig Heard, a 14-year old honor roll student, shot twice in the head by Rochester Police officers Serge Savitcheff, and Hector Padgham.

Or Israel “Izzy” Andino, a mentally-ill young man, shot by 7 Rochester Police officers, on his 20th birthday, in what neighbors described as a modern-day firing squad.

The memory of seeing Izzy’s dried blood on the sidewalk where his body lay uncovered for almost 8 hours, is still etched in my mind.

I went to see Fruitvale Station, for the same reason the film’s director, Ryan Coogler, made the movie.

Because I wanted to know Oscar Grant.

I wanted to know him as more than just a name.

I wanted to know him as more than just another innocent African-American, or Latino young man shot and killed by a white cop.

Coogler helped me do that.

I laughed.

I cried.

But throughout the movie I also did something else.

I thought of all the innocent victims, killed by Rochester Police officers.

I thought of their stories.

Of their struggles.

Of their dreams,

I thought of their familes.

And I thought of the children some of them left behind.

Throughout the film, I just couldn’t help but to think of Rochester, NY’s own Oscar Grants.


Follow me on twitter

Davy V.

Davy V. is a Cuban-American Filmmaker, Video Producer, Photographer and Freelance Writer, best known for using the power of video and film to expose Police Brutality, Corruption and Misconduct. The son of the late Mario Vara, a community activist who for years fought against Police Brutality and Misconduct in Rochester, New York, Davy V. got his start in Television and Video by tagging along and working camera for his father's cable access television show, "La Voz Del Pueblo" (The Voice of The People). Davy V. later went on to produce and host "KEEP IT ON THE REEL", a cable access TV show with a mix of Hip Hop as well as issues affecting African-Americans and Latinos in Rochester, NY, such as Police Brutality and Misconduct. Some guests on the show included Treach, KayGee and Vinnie of Naughty by Nature, Method Man, Funkdoobiest, Da Youngstas, and the Rottin' Razkals. Davy V. won the U.S. ACM Video Festival Award for his Documentary, "R.P.D. EXPOSED!" about the Rochester, New York Police Department and their long history of misconduct, corruption and unnecessary killings of unarmed innocent citizens. "R.P.D. EXPOSED!" and Davy V.'s follow up, "R.P.D.: Badges of DISHONOR, CORRUPTION and MURDER!" were both screened at the National Hip Hop Political Convention at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey. Davy V.'s work has been featured in publications such as THE SOURCE Hip Hop Magazine, URBAN AMERICA Magazine, The Ave. Magazine, Insider Magazine, La Voz Newspaper, Minority Reporter Newspaper, CNY LATINO Newspaper, DOWN Magazine, as well as on television news stations, and programs such as CNN and Inside Edition. In addition to his freelance writing, Davy V. also writes a monthly Op/Ed Column for LA VOZ Magazine and Minority Reporter Newspaper. In June 2012, Davy V. joined Cop Block as a regular contributor.