Filmed & edited by Kash Gaines
© YAK FILMS 2010
The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Police shooting of Oscar Grant refers to the fatal shooting of unarmed civilian Oscar Grant by BART Officer Johannes Mehserle in Oakland, California, United States, in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day 2009. Responding to reports of a fight on a crowded Bay Area Rapid Transit train returning from San Francisco, BART Police officers detained Oscar Grant and several other passengers on the platform at the Fruitvale BART Station. Officer Johannes Mehserle and another officer were restraining Grant, who was prostrate and allegedly resisting arrest. Officer Mehserle stood, drew his gun and shot Grant once in the back. Grant was unarmed. During his court testimony, Mehserle said that Grant then exclaimed, „You shot me!” Grant was pronounced dead the next morning at Highland Hospital in Oakland.
The events were captured on multiple digital video and cell phone cameras. The footage was disseminated to media outlets and to various websites, where it was watched hundreds of thousands of times. The following days saw both peaceful and violent protests.
The shooting has been variously labeled an involuntary manslaughter and a summary execution. On January 13, Alameda County prosecutors charged Mehserle with murder for the shooting. He resigned his position and pleaded not guilty. The trial began on June 10, 2010. Michael Rains, Mehserle’s criminal defense attorney, has claimed Mehserle intended to fire his Taser, but mistakenly shot Grant with a pistol when he thought Grant was reaching for a gun. Pretrial filings argue that his client did not commit first-degree murder and asked a Los Angeles judge to instruct the jury to limit its deliberations to either second-degree murder or acquittal.
Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris filed a $25 million wrongful death claim against BART on behalf of Grant’s family.
On July 8, 2010, the jury returned its verdict: Mehserle was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and not guilty of second degree murder and voluntary manslaughter. Initial protests against the ruling were peacefully organized; looting, arson, destruction of property, and small riots broke out after dark. Nearly 80 people were eventually arrested.
On Friday, July 9, the U.S. Justice Department opened a civil rights case against Mehserle; the federal government can prosecute him independently for the same act under the separate sovereigns exception to double jeopardy. The Department of Justice will be working with the U.S. Attorney’s office in San Francisco and the FBI.
On November 5, 2010 Mehserle was sentenced to two years, minus time served. He will be eligible for release after around a year.