BART shooting protest hits Oakland streets

January 8, 2009 10:05:14 AM PST
Protests shut down the BART station where a man was shot to death by a BART Police Officer on New Year's Day. That officer resigned on Wednesday, as the victim was being laid to rest.

Protesters hit the streets Wednesday evening after leaving the protest at the BART Fruitvale station and lit a dumpster on fire on International Boulevard. Firefighters quickly put out the dumpster fire, but police are still working to get a handle on the situation.

The protesters started the day at the district attorney's office, later moving to the BART station. By 5:30 p.m. the crowd had moved onto International Blvd. They were peaceful until they were impinging on traffic, weaving in and out of cars and going in the opposite direction of the way they had been marching.

Officer resigns

The officer's surprise decision to resign will not change the demand for justice by protesters. Some are angry that the shooting officer has yet to be interviewed in the investigation by BART police.

At the Fruitvale BART station, where the shooting happened on New Year's Day, BART shut down the station after protesters blocked the fare gates. Trains were rolling through without stopping.

The officer who shot a 22-year-old Hayward man chose to quit, instead of talk. That was no consolation to the hundreds of protesters who gathered at the Fruitvale station. They managed to shut the station down by jumping on top of the turnstyles. That officer was scheduled to meet with BART investigators at the BART headquarters in downtown Oakland Wednesday morning. Instead, lawyers and union representatives walked into the meeting and turned in his resignation.

It was a day of protest, from a diverse group of African American community leaders who stormed the Alameda County District Attorney's Office demanding answers to the chanting crowd who marched on the Fruitvale BART station.

"We're not waiting for someone to tell us what we can do. We're going to do what we have the power and the right to do and we're going to do it right now," said Pastor Dion Evans, from Chosen Vessels Christian Church in Alameda.

Politicians, church leaders, mothers and children met at the county courthouse and demanded that District Attorney Tom Orloff speak to them. They gathered in his office lobby this morning and refused to leave until he agreed to a meeting.

"Is he afraid of his constituency? We're the ones who should be afraid," said Desley Brooks from Oakland's City Council.

They finally did meet with Orloff, whose office is conducting its own investigation into the fatal shooting of Oscar Grant. ABC7 was not allowed inside and afterward Orloff wouldn't speak with the media.

"He's not available at this time," said Orloff.
"Will he be available later?" asked a reporter.
"That's up to you to call and find out," said D.A. Inspector Bob Connor.

The group echoed calls by Grant's family attorney John Burris for the D.A. to file criminal charges against Officer Johannes Mesherle. Burris says witnesses to the shooting continue to come forward.

"I hope there are a thousand video tapes out there and all of them come forward and that they are displayed and seen by everyone throughout the world," said Attorney John Burris.

Amateur video shows the officer shooting Grant in the back as he lay face down on the BART platform.

Mesherle was supposed to meet with BART investigators to talk about the shooting on Wednesday morning, but instead he resigned. He obtained a lawyer immediately after the shooting and has refused to meet with investigators.

"At this point we are urging the officer to continue with investigators, but he is no longer employed by BART by his choice," said Linton Johnson, BART's Chief Spokesman.

For many, the anger is about more than just Oscar Grant.

"We're being treated as if we're in Birmingham Alabama 1962. Something is wrong with that picture," said Minister Christopher Muhammad, from the Nation of Islam.

ABC7 spoke with BART Police Chief Gary Gee on Wednesday and for the first time he confirmed that the officer involved in the shooting was in fact carrying a Taser during that New Year's Day shooting.

ABC7 asked about the speculation that the officer mistakenly fired his gun thinking that he was firing his Taser and where the BART officers carry their Tasers in relation to their weapons. He said that they try to typically carry them on the opposite sides "So that these kinds of accidents don't happen."

New video surfaces that shows the minutes before the shooting

Now there is new video of the moments leading-up to the fatal shot. It was taken by a BART passenger using a cell phone. Unlike what you've seen so far, this tape begins earlier, a couple of minutes before the shooting.

The home video shows the three young men sitting with their backs against the wall as a third BART Officer walks up. Officer Mehserle moves to the far right side of the screen. The man nearest him stands up and Mehserle steps in and pushes him back down into a sitting position. The third officer ends up moving the man onto his knees and handcuffing him, as Mehserle steps over to Oscar Grant, who is still sitting with his back to the wall.

Another officer is blocking the view, so we can't see what's happening behind him, but Mehserle pushes Grant onto his stomach, and 26 seconds later, pulls his gun and shoots him in the back.

Why that gun was fired is exactly the reason investigators are anxious to talk with Mehserle, but he still refuses to cooperate.

Watch the new video minutes before the shooting: click here
WARNING: This unedited passenger video contains graphic images and language. Watch the raw video of the shooting: click here


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