CALIFORNIA BEAT STAFF REPORT
William Rapoport, the defense attorney for BART Police Officer Tony Pirone, says that his client did punch Oscar Grant in the face but did so trying to defend himself after Grant tried to knee the officer in the groin.
Home video of the incident captured by a witness to the New Year’s morning killing of Grant by former BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle showed Pirone punching the victim in the face moments before he was brought to the ground, restrained on his stomach by Pirone, and shot to death by Mehserle.
Rapoport tells the San Francisco Chronicle that Pirone used “the exercise of reasonable force to overcome resistance by someone who was not just resisting but striking at the officer.” The attorney, on retainer through a state police association to represent Pirone, said that what the videotape broadcast as an exclusive by KTVU-TV doesn’t explicitly show is that Grant made a move towards kneeing the officer in the groin.
Rapoport said that was when Pirone struck him in the face.
The attorney for the Grant family, John Burris, has called on the Alameda County District Attorney’s office to file charges against this second officer for what they perceive as an unreasonable use of force. Upon the broadcast of the punching videotape by KTVU on Jan. 23, BART General Manager Dorothy Dugger called for an internal affairs inquiry into the incident saying that allegations of police abuse are taken very seriously.
In grainy detail, the videotape aired by KTVU-TV shows Pirone getting up from where he placed one subject in handcuffs and rush toward Grant. He grabs Grant, who momentarily attempts to shake the officer off. In a California Beat analysis of the videotape, both of Grant’s feet appear to stay on the floor with no visible attempts in the clip where Grant tries to raise his knee to make contact with Pirone.
Less than five seconds lapse from when the officer grabs Grant, to when he punches him in the face, knocking him to the ground.
No charges have been filed against Pirone. Mehserle, the former officer who shot and killed Oscar Grant, is still in Santa Rita Jail Sunday afternoon. A judge granted him $3 million bails Friday.
The San Francisco Chronicle is also reporting Sunday that the BART Police Officer’s Association is slamming Transit Agency Police Chief Gary Gee for a lack of leadership that he has displayed in the shooting incident.
“We’re disappointed that we’re being held responsible for the decision making of others,” POA representative Jesse Sekhon tells the Chronicle. “As officers, we’re not in control of the investigation. We feel like we’re being thrown under the bus.”
BART Police Officers have been the subject of public ridicule and abuse in the aftermath of the shooting incident. Officers have been cursed at, spit upon and berated by angry community members infuriated that one of their officers beat and then shot an unarmed man to death in this highly publicized case.
Activists and protesters are vowing to keep Mehserle in jail. An organization calling for the jailing of all the BART Police Officers on the Fruitvale Station platform is planning another rally at 4:00 p.m. Monday at the Alameda Co. Superior Courthouse in Oakland.