Home » BART Police Shooting

Hundreds lambast BART Board over New Year’s Day shooting incident

By California Beat January 8, 2009 One Comment Print Share

By Tim Jue / Beat Staff Writer

OAKLAND, CALIF — Hundreds of angry community members packed a morning meeting of the BART Board of Directors and lambasted them and their agency over the New Year’s Day shooting death of an unarmed 22 year-old at the Fruitvale train station by a BART Police officer who has since resigned from the force.

Religious leaders, community groups and local politicians crammed into the small meeting hall to address the BART Board — the elected body which oversees the transit agency. The members were vociferous in expressing their outrage at the killing of Hayward resident Oscar Grant by former BART officer Johannes Mehserle — an incident caught on home video tape and disseminated by television news stations and the internet around the world.

Those videos depict — in graphic detail — Grant lying on his stomach, with one unidentified BART officer placing his weight on his upper back when, inexplicably, Mehserle unhoslters his service weapon, and fires point blank at Grant, mortally wounding him in the back. In one video, Grant is seen writhing in pain after the bullet tears through his lower back, richocets of the platform and re-enters his body, puncturing both his lungs.

Many speakers demanded that criminal charges be brought against the former police officer and urged the State Attorney General’s office to take over the investigation because they were disappointed at the apparent delays that the transit agency have incurred in their own investigation.

After being on the receiving end of an hours-long tongue lashing from frustrated community members, the BART Board said that they would call upon State Attorney General Jerry Brown to launch another investigation into the shooting incident.

“It’s really strange to be able to see in my own community the execution — the execution — of a young man,” Oakland City Councilwoman Desley Brooks said during public comments. “If that weren’t bad enough and the response from your board and your agency appeared to be one not of acknowledgement of an execution, but as one that was covering up.”

BART Board President Thomas Blalock, who earlier in the week told KGO-TV that he could not discern whether or not he saw Mehserle draw his firearm in the eyewitness videos that have been played around the world, was a bit more remorseful in front of the inflamed crowd. He called for a moment of silence for Grant.

“This event is tragic for all involved: family and friends of Oscar Grant, the officer and all of us involved,” he said.

Outside, dozens of Oakland Police and BART Police officers wore riot gear and prepared to disperse any crowds that might form and turn rowdy.

As speakers chastised the board and BART, nearby business owners were reeling from a violent night of rioting on downtown city streets that left cars burned to the ground, windows broken out, and nighttime traffic snarled — the apparent aftermath of BART shooting protests earlier Wednesday.

Many employers, including the Clorox Corp. and Kaiser Permanente office workers in the Downtown Oakland area, feared that a repeat of the vandalism and widespread violence that happened Wednesday night would happen. They sent employees home early.

Oakland Police said that 120 people were arrested for vandalism and other more serious offenses Wednesday night, but at a press conference Thursday afternoon, Mayor Ron Dellums said that 70 percent of those arrested were cited and released for civil disobedience violations.

More than 300 businesses in the 17th Street corridor of Downtown Oakland sustained the heaviest vandalism with store windows broken out and more than two dozen cars damaged, including a few that were set on fire. Other businesses — the McDonald’s Restaurant on Jackson Street and Yoon’s Pharmacy — reported heavy damage as vandals took their outrage out on storefronts.

Fears of more rioting prompted city leaders to hold the press conference and appeal for calm as District Attorney Tom Orloff said the investigation would be take as soon as two weeks. He was interrupted several times by outraged citizens in the room at the time, but maintained that his office was committed to an impartial investigation into what had happened.

The family and their attorney also called for calm in the streets.

Mayor Dellums also reaffirmed his commitment to bring in the Oakland Police Department to investigate the shooting incident, a move that BART Police Chief Gary Gee welcomed.

He called the New Year’s Day shooting incident where Mehserle, the former BART officer, shot and killed Grant in the back as he lay on his stomach on the platform floor “horrific.”

One Comment »