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Grant family calls Mehserle letter “a ploy”

(7/10) — 20:26 PDT — OAKLAND, CALIF. — The family of Oscar Grant, the unarmed BART passenger shot to death by former BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle, blasted a letter released to the public by Mehserle’s attorney Friday, calling his statement “fake” and “a ploy” during a Saturday evening news conference in West Oakland.

Speaking on behalf of the family, Grant’s uncle Cephus Johnson rejected Mehserle’s apology, angrily asserting that the letter was more of an attempt by the ex-officer to show remorse before Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert Perry sentences Mehserle for involuntary manslaughter with an accompanying gun enhancement in Grant’s killing.

“This was a letter that was purposely designed to influence the judge,” Johnson said. “We’re not buying it as a letter of apology to us.”

In the handwritten letter, dated July 4 and released Friday by his attorney Michael Rains, Mehserle wrote, “I have and will continue to live every day of my life knowing that Mr. Grant should not have been shot. I know a daughter has lost a father and a mother has lost a son. It saddens me knowing that my actions cost Mr. Grant his life, no words express how truly sorry I am.”

“The simple fact is that it’s garbage,” Johnson said. “Just like he faked a cry on the stand, he’s sending out a fake letter to the public and nobody is fooled by the letter.”

Surrounded by Grant’s mother, Wanda Johnson, and members of Oakland’s faith-based community, the family — still angry with a Los Angeles jury’s decision to acquit Mehserle of murder — questioned why he chose to address the public instead of the family.

Grant’s mother did not speak during the event.

“This letter was not addressed to us, it was addressed to the public,” Johnson said. “I didn’t see my name, my sister’s name, Tatiana’s [Grant's daughter] name, Sophina’s [Mesa, Grant's girlfriend] name.”

Johnson said the family was anxiously awaiting a federal investigation by the United States Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation into the shooting death of Grant. On Thursday, the Department of Justice said it would open its own investigation into the incident to weigh whether federal civil rights charges needed to be filed.

Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter on Thursday and faces five to 14 years in state prison. The former officer was acquitted of the most serious charge he faced — second degree murder.

He was arrested by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputies and booked into the Los Angeles Men’s Central Jail downtown after the reading of the verdict. Mehserle will remain at the facility until his sentencing date sometime in September.

Johnson said the letter would have had more impact on the family if Mehserle had said it right after killing his nephew, or after serving his sentence.

“He can write this letter after 14 years in prison and maybe we’ll believe he’s truly sorry,” he said.

Contact the Beat at news@californiabeat.org.

One Comment »

  • Oscar said:

    The family of Oscar Grant, the felon on parole accidently shot by former BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle