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BART Officer Found Guilty

BART Officer Found Guilty

This cellular telephone image provided by the Los Angeles County Superior Court shows an image taken, according to lawyers, by Oscar Grant, of former San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer Johannes Mehserle shortly before Mehserle shot Grant

Associated Press

July 09, 2010

LOS ANGELES — A white former transit officer was convicted of involuntary manslaughter Thursday in the videotaped shooting death of an unarmed black man on an Oakland train platform, a verdict that touched off violent protests in Oakland that damaged businesses and led to at least 50 arrests.

Prosecutors had wanted Johannes Mehserle convicted of murdering 22-year-old Oscar Grant, who was shot once in the back as he lay face-down.

The jury’s conviction on the lesser charge raised concerns of a repeat of the days of rioting that followed the shooting on New Year’s Day in 2009. The incident is among the most racially polarizing cases in California since four Los Angeles officers were acquitted in 1992 in the beating of Rodney King.

Near Oakland City Hall, a crowd moaned and cursed Thursday when they heard the verdict, decrying what they called a lack of justice.

At least a dozen business were damaged after 9 p.m., including a Foot Locker store that was looted and a jewelry store that was ransacked. Windows were also smashed at several other businesses. Firefighters put out fires in several trash bins and at least one dumpster.

One person suffered a leg injury when some protesters started throwing rocks and bottles, officials said.

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This Jan 14, 2009 file photo shows Johannes Mehserle, right, in the East Fork Justice Court in Minden, Nev. A jury reached a verdict Thursday, July 8, 2010, in Mehserle's trial, a former San Francisco Bay area transit officer accused of murdering an unarm

Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts said that at least 50 people had been arrested and expected the number to double.

“We deserve better than this,” he said. “This city is not the Wild Wild West. We will allow people to protest and we will allow them to do it peacefully.”

Batts says officers from 15 different agencies responded to help Oakland police.

Before the incidents, Batts had described a mostly peaceful protest, although a small incendiary device had been set off near his department’s downtown station.

The chief’s briefing came as lines of police in riot gear worked to keep the crowd confined to a two-block area in the city’s downtown area.

“There is no need for this. This makes us look like animals. We came here for peace,” said Jonathan Trotter, 34, who watched the Foot Locker looters with disappointment. “This is a justification for the verdict.”

Some streets in Oakland had been deserted after workers went home early in anticipation of possible riots.

The anger is directed at the involuntary manslaughter conviction — the lowest offense Mehserle faced. The charge carries a sentence of two to four years, although the judge could add 10 more years because a gun was used in the killing.


“My son was murdered! He was murdered! He was murdered,” said Grant’s mother, Wanda Johnson, who earlier stared at jurors when the verdict was read.

Mehserle was taken away in handcuffs. He turned to his family and mouthed, “I love you, guys,” as his parents wept.

One female juror wiped tears with a tissue when the panel was polled on its decision.

The verdict followed a three-week trial in which prosecutors played videos by bystanders, and witnesses recounted hearing the frightening gunshot that killed Grant.

At least five bystanders videotaped the incident

Mehserle, 28, testified that he struggled with Grant and saw him digging in his pocket as officers responded to reports of a fight at a train station. Fearing Grant may have a weapon, Mehserle said he decided to shock Grant with his Taser but pulled his .40-caliber handgun instead.

Grant has become a martyr of sorts in a city where more than a third of residents are black. His omnipresent image on buildings and storefront windows arguably rivals that of slain hometown rapper Tupac Shakur.

The trial was moved from Alameda County to Los Angeles because of racial tension and extensive media coverage in Oakland.

Alameda County District Attorney Nance E. O’Malley said in a statement that while the jury did not agree with the prosecution’s belief that it was murder, the panel also rejected the defense contention that Mehserle had no criminal liability.

“The case is a tragedy in every respect. Oscar Grant should never have been killed at the hands of a sworn officer,” O’Malley said.

The case was a rare instance in which a police officer stood trial for an on-duty killing and that was captured on video from so many different angles.

The jury had a choice between murder and lesser charges of voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. The jury found that Mehserle didn’t mean to kill Grant, but that his behavior was still so negligent that it was criminal.

“It’s not real, it’s not real. Where’s the justice? He was killed in cold blood,” 23-year-old Amber Royal of Oakland said as a crowd near City Hall moaned and cursed when they heard the verdict. A dozen people gathered in a semicircle to pray.

Grant family attorney John Burris said they were “extremely disappointed” with the verdict.

“This verdict is not a true representation of what happened to Oscar Grant. This was not an involuntary manslaughter case,” Burris said.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued a statement urging Californians to remain calm and not resort to violence. Schwarzenegger said he had informed Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums the state was well prepared to assist in maintaining order.

“As we have come to notice, and we as a family has been slapped in the face by a system that has denied us a right to true justice,” said Cephus Johnson, Grant’s uncle. “We truly do not blame the jury, but we blame the system.”

Legal experts said the verdict shows the jury sympathized with Mehserle’s version of events.

Prosecutors had a huge hurdle to overcome in convincing a jury that an officer with a spotless record meant to kill, even with video of the killing, said University of California, Berkeley, law school professor Erin Murphy.

“I think it’s a lesson that video can only get us so far,” Murphy said.

Defense attorney Michael Rains contended the shooting was a tragic accident. Mehserle had no motive to shoot Grant, even though he was resisting arrest, the lawyer argued.

Rains also said Mehserle told a colleague before the shooting: “Tony, Tony, Tony, I can’t get his hands. I’m going to Tase him.”

Rains did not respond to calls seeking comment.

Fallout from the shooting was swift in Oakland after the videos were shown on television and the Internet. The shooting and the nearly two weeks it took to arrest Mehserle sent the city into a tailspin of violence as downtown businesses were damaged, cars were set ablaze and clashes erupted between protesters and police.

Grant had recently been released from jail after being sentenced to 16 months for a gun possession charge filed after he ran from police and was subdued by an officer with a stun gun.

The jury included eight women and four men. None listed their race as black. Seven said they were white, three were Latino, and one was Asian-Pacific. One declined to state their race.


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  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    over 3 years ago

    If you look at the policelink website and the forums you will see the most hateful and vile things said about Grant. This is a police related website with police officers commenting on various stories.

    In reference to the Grant shooting, officers in these forums call Grant horrible names. They call for Mehserle to be given no prison time and even call him the victim.

    Just as example of the hate found in these forums by police officers is the following comments made by a member under the profile name of
    Robocop33. He calls Grant a POS (Piece Of Shit) and a gang banger.

    Robocop33 makes the following comments.

    http://policelink.monster.com/news/articles/142899-bart-officer-found-guilty

    "I agree that this former Officer should get the minimum and hopefully probation. There was nothing intentional in this and he was just trying to do his job and screwed up big time. As someone else said, he probably should not have become a LEO but he did. Blame that on the hiring and weeding out process. The fact that the Officer happened to be white and the POS was black has, or should have nothing to do with it at all. The POS was a gang-banger with a long rap sheet and involved in basically inciting a riot as there were three or more people fighting. He then actively resisted arrest and was fighting with Officers when this young and inexperienced Officer grabbed the wrong pistol. I also saw tapes of this incident and there were at least two gang-bangers there with weapons, one being a plainly seen stub-nose pistol. In the totality of this incident it is really this Officer who is the victim."

  • M_a6d52838fcaf76871a3f162b66e0b424_max600_max50

    recon2819

    almost 4 years ago

    252 Comments

    i must say i feel for the family of the one killed, but also for the officer and his family. It was a horrible mistake that was made in a flash and in the heat of an altercation. it could happen to any of us. we should get to where the choice of weapon is a natural reflex.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Lev3126

    almost 4 years ago

    6 Comments

    Two officers in my department were indicted for murder after shooting a man who rushed them with a knife after attempting to rob a co-worker with the same knife. The problem was escalated becuase the county district attorney (who was white) was up for re-election in a 85% black county; the perpetrator was Black and the two officers were white. Also this occurred the day before Thanksgiving. The Dat told the Grand Jury that it was not an accident, it was not involuntary manslaughter, nor was it voluntary manslaughter, it was pure murder. They were convicted of voluntary Manslaughter and sentenced to 15 years to serve 12 years. The Georgia Supreme Court overturned the convictions since the trial judge failed to charge the jury with the instructions that the state had to prove that the police dilebrately intended to kill the suspect, since they were acting in the line of duty in responding to a person armed robbery call. The careers of these two officers went straight to the toilet, even though their conviction were overturned.

  • Duke_and_savannah_036_max50

    toddm394

    almost 4 years ago

    274 Comments

    Head Shot it sounds like you said everything that we all wanted to say and said it so eloquently. I'm disappointed in the way some of the public is acting in this decision with the rioting and all. The violence will solve nothing and to some people it is just an excuse for them to destroy property and loot from the businesses.

    Anthony2590 I was wondering the same thing since I never carried a taser I'm not sure where it is carried in relation to the weapon.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Silent_Observer

    almost 4 years ago

    446 Comments

    The verdict was fair as the law is written, but this should have ended in jury nullification. Too bad the system all but bans the mention of those words near a court house.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anthony2590

    almost 4 years ago

    66 Comments

    I agree with MAYES38. The opening line to the first paragraph was complete crap. Very sad and delicate situatuation that could have been avoided with training. Anyone know where his taser was in relation to his weapon?

  • Me_last_wk_max50

    delano388

    almost 4 years ago

    4318 Comments

    Bump

  • 45089_396847393722850_1055776862_n_max50

    SuzanneNGa

    almost 4 years ago

    16580 Comments

    Jimmy, I had Sarge get rid of the troll and I have not seen him resurface.

  • Eagle_logo_max50

    Jimshnuks

    almost 4 years ago

    36 Comments

    awww I missed what kossack said! Anyone mind filling me so I can get my daily moron fix?

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    almost 4 years ago

    BUMP headshot

  • American_first_responder2_max50

    trooperman911

    almost 4 years ago

    2472 Comments

    Bump Headshot...everything you say is correct and the only way to view this. Thanks for helping me say it as professional as you did.

  • P3_max50

    madog87

    almost 4 years ago

    894 Comments

    bump headshot

  • N507663549_8962_max50

    Opd77

    almost 4 years ago

    86 Comments

    I totally and 100% agree with you HeadShot. It is a very sad situation and I feel for the family of the victim and for the officer and his family. I also think that trainning is the only solution to the problem. Officer's need to have instilled in them where those items are on their duty belt and it a split second's notice be able to grab the right one.

  • Memorialbadge_max50

    MAYES969

    almost 4 years ago

    3608 Comments

    "LOS ANGELES — A white former transit officer was convicted of involuntary manslaughter Thursday in the videotaped shooting death of an unarmed black man on an Oakland train platform, a verdict that touched off violent protests in Oakland that damaged businesses and led to at least 50 arrests."

    What is wrong with this opening paragraph. The author, who is un-named, is obviously trying to put a racial spin on this. Why does the media intentionally word articles with to insight public outrage. This is exactly why the black public reacted the way they did. Why could the opening paragraph or story title read... unarmed suspect accidentaly killed by bart officer after officer pulls weapon instead of taser.

  • Headshot_max50

    HeadShot

    almost 4 years ago

    736 Comments

    Now that the case is over, I will finally give my opinion (which is just an opinion belonging to me). I'm saddened that he was found guilty. With that, I believe at the same time it was a correct verdict. Before many on here attempt to ban me and claim I am trolling, please allow me to explain. We, as law enforcement officers, are held to a very high level of liability with everything we do. We are ultimately responsible for everything we say, do, see, and hear. We are also responsible for any use of force we use, whether it be a simple arm grab-and escort to a shooting. I have no doubts that this shooting was an accident, nor do I care that the officer went into hiding for almost two weeks afterwards. The key to this is, he had a firearm and a taser, and he drew the wrong weapon and used it. The suspect died as a result of the officers actions, which were not justified. This is a clear-cut case of negligent involuntary manslaughter. The officer is also going to face a huge civil action, as well, which does come with the territory. The only way we can avoid an incident like this in the future is to ensure proper training. I do not like it any better than anyone else, knowing a fellow brother is going to prison for something that was an accident, but we have to have a way to help prevent this from happening again. Could you imagine if the courts found him completely not-guilty on all counts? How easy could this open up the floodgates of "accidental shootings." I know that 99% of us have intregrity and pride, but there is that 1% that will take advantage of the system for their own gain. I believe this officer was in the 99% group, but he made a very unfortunate accident--one that cost a life.
    I am truly saddened by the whole incident, but to expect no criminal sanctions--that is a fairy tale we cannot let ourselves get sucked into.

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