Oscar Julius Grant III, a Hayward resident and father of one, was shot and killed by former BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle at the Fruitvale BART station platform in Oakland, California on New Year’s Day 2009.
The incident was videotaped by passengers on board a crowded train carrying New Year’s Eve celebrants returning from San Francisco. The videos were widely disseminated through local television media and online and stirred a strong reaction from local community members who decried the shooting death as unjustified.
Grant, who was 22 years old at the time, was returning to his home in Hayward, California after attending a New Year’s celebration in San Francisco with a group of friends.
According to authorities, Grant and his friends were involved in an argument with another individual on board the Dublin-Pleasanton bound BART train when the train operator summoned law enforcement assistance to remove the parties involved from the crowded car.
Grant and his friends were pulled off the train by BART Police at the Fruitvale BART station in East Oakland. Transit police officers began to arrest Grant and his friends Nigel and Jack Bryson.
In videos obtained by Oakland television station KTVU-TV, one of the first responding BART Police officers, Tony Pirone, appears to strike Grant in the face with either his fist or his forearm to get the man to comply with his orders. Lawyers for the officer argued that he was defending himself after Grant tried to knee Pirone in the groin — a claim not supported by the videos that were aired on KTVU-TV.
Shortly afterward, Mehserle attempted to handcuff Grant and wrestled him to the floor of the platform. Then Mehserle unholstered his service pistol and shot Grant in the back. The bullet entered his body, exited through his torso, and ricocheted off the platform back into Grant’s body.
He died after being transported to Highland Hospital in Oakland.
Lawyers for Mehserle have argued he mistakenly fired his service pistol instead of his Taser. Mehserle now faces a second-degree murder charge for Grant’s shooting death.
Grant’s family retained prominent Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris to seek civil damages against BART from the shooting death. On Jan. 3, 2009, Burris announced that a $25 million claim would be filed on behalf of Grant’s young daughter, Tatiana, the mother of the child, and his mother Wanda Johnson.
Grant, a native East Bay resident, attended schools in Hayward and San Lorenzo before obtaining a GED. He had a checkered criminal past, serving two stints in state prison, including one for leading San Leandro Police on a car chase into his hometown of Hayward. Police discovered a loaded handgun in the car and eventually had to tase Grant to arrest him.
But Grant was turning his life around, family members said. He was employed as a butcher at Farmer Joe’s Marketplace in Oakland’s Dimond District at the time of his death. He had previously worked jobs in fast food in San Leandro and San Lorenzo.
An overflow crowd of mourners attended Grant’s funeral on Jan. 7, 2009 at the Palma Ceia Baptist Church in Hayward. He is buried at the Chapel of the Chimes cemetery in Hayward.
Information compiled from Beat research and news services