Arrest made in BART shooting death of Oscar Grant
Update, 1-14-09: Authorities have confirmed that the BART Officer, Johannes Mehserle, 27, who fatally shot an unarmed Oscar Grant, 22, on New Year's Day, then refused to explain his actions to investigators has been arrested in Nevada on suspicion of murder. The Alameda County District Attorney has since defended his decision to charge the officer with murder.
Mehserle was in Nevada because he feared for his safety after receiving death threats after Grant was shot in the back while lying face down after being pulled off a San Fransisco Bay Area Rapid Transit Authority train, according to the San Fransisco Chronicle. Mehserle surrendered without incident.
Grant's family's attorney, John Burris, said late Tuesday "If it's true, the family is delighted, and it will really help with the healing process," Burris said. "This is also very important for the community. This had to occur; it was almost a no-brainer. I think the district attorney ought to be commended for moving (the case) expeditiously."
Details of the arrest are expected to be announced today by Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff, and Mehserle's attorney, Christopher W. Miller has said that he would not comment on the arrest until after that press conference.
Grant's family has filed a $25 million suit against the transit authority.
According to Sgt. Dan Coverley, from the Douglas County Sheriff's Department, Mehserle is to be arraigned this morning where he will have the option of fighting extradition back to California, or waiving it.
BART officials say they were not told in advance of the impending arrest, and were taken by surprise.
Activists who had planned protests for today were also taken by surprise, but intend to carry out the scheduled events as planned.
This video is from ABC 7, broadcast Jan. 14, 2009.
Download video via RawReplay.com
Outraged citizens seeking justice in the New Year's Day shooting death of 22-year old Oscar Grant of Haywood, California have scheduled more protests in Oakland, CA, as well as Pittsburgh, PA., Columbus, OH, Little Rock, AK., and Erie, PA., according to a report in the Bay Area news. The protesters are reportedly upset that earlier responses to the shooting turned violent, and plan new gatherings demonstrating their commitment to nonviolent action.
The shooting gained national attention after video images captured by witnesses of an apparently helpless and unarmed Grant being shot by Bay Area Transportation Authority (BART) officer Johannes Mehserle, 27, were circulated on the internet. Raw Story first published the video and report on Jan. 5, 2009.
The organizer of the Oakland protest, scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 14, Dereca Blackmon, a founder and partner at Oakland-based Aya Solutions, a consulting firm that advises government and private companies on race issue, said her Coalition Against Police Executions would probably brief the media on plans for the protest today due to concerns over the violence that plagued the last protests in Oakland.
The Coalition Against Police Executions' Facebook page has 1,434 members, and the London-based Justice for Oscar Grant Facebook page has well over 5,000 members worldwide, according to the Bay Area News.
"I hope that city officials see the citizens of Oakland, and citizens all over the world, aren't going to rest until they see justice done," organizer Evan Shamar told the News. "We will definitely make it very clear to all the protesters and supporters there that we don't want any violence to take place."
Oakland Police spokesman Jeff Thomason told the paper that those engaging in violent activities during the previous protest were largely non-locals and appeared to be "professional protesters."
"About 70 percent of the people we arrested were not from Oakland," he was quoted as saying. "It appeared that they were professional protesters - they already had masks on and backpacks with & objects they can throw at the police. Obviously they came with another agenda than a peaceful one."
It's also hoped that the over 100 arrests last week will deter further violence.
Oakland rapper Mistah F.A.B. told MTV last week, "I don't condone the burning down of minority businesses or destroying city property - that makes Oakland look bad... But Oscar Grant was not the first young man to be shot and killed by a police officer in Oakland in the last year. The Oakland police do not have a good relationship with the community - especially the young people of this community - so I understand some of that frustration."
Other peaceful protests are scheduled for Martin Luther King Day, and another for schoolmates of Grant on his birthday, Feb. 27.
Grant's death also stirred up heart-wrenching emotions for a father who lost his son. San Francisco's station KGO reports similarities between the Grant shooting, and the fatal shooting of a 19-year old by a BART Officer in 1992.
The young black man, Jerrold Hall, was shot in the back of the head by a BART Officer outside a Hayward BART station.
Hall's father recalls the death of his son for ABC news. This video is from ABC 7, broadcast Jan. 12, 2009.
Download video via RawReplay.com