Ex-BART Officer Escalated Events That Led to Fatal Shooting of Oscar Grant in Oakland: Report

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A former police officer with the Bay Area Rapid Transit agency who pulled a black man from a train 10 years ago was largely responsible for setting events in motion that ended with a second officer fatally shooting him, a newly released report says.

Oscar Grant is seen in this undated photo provided by his family.
Oscar Grant is seen in this undated photo provided by his family.

The fatal shooting of Oscar Grant on an Oakland train platform in the early hours of New Year’s Day 2009 was one of the first police shootings caught on video by bystanders. His death sparked protests and contributed to a national conversation about racism and police violence.

The document by the Meyers Nave law firm, which BART hired to run its internal investigation, long ago prompted the firing of the officer, Anthony Pirone. The report was released Wednesday under California’s new police transparency law, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Pirone told investigators he had scuffled with Grant but the report says video of the Fruitvale Station encounter shows Pirone struck Grant in the head and kneed him, likely causing injuries documented in his autopsy. It adds that Grant did not fight back.

“Pirone was, in large part, responsible for setting the events in motion that created a chaotic and tense situation on the platform, setting the stage, even if inadvertent, for the shooting of Oscar Grant,” said Kimberly Colwell and Jayne Williams, the attorneys who authored the report dated July 31, 2009.

Colwell and Williams cited Pirone’s “repeated, unreasonable and unnecessary use of force,” his “manifest lack of veracity” and his use of a racial slur while arguing with Grant in recommending the officer’s firing.

Pirone was not criminally charged. But prosecutors charged former BART Officer Johannes Mehserle, who fatally shot Grant, a 22-year-old Hayward resident. Mehserle resigned shortly after the shooting.

He was convicted of involuntary manslaughter after a Los Angeles jury accepted his explanation that he accidentally shot Grant while believing he was squeezing the trigger of his Taser.

But the report said videos showed Mehserle may have known he was drawing his firearm, not his Taser, before shooting Grant.

“Despite the inability to interview Officer Mehserle, the conclusion can be made from a close viewing of the enhanced video that he was intending to pull his firearm and not his Taser,” the report says, noting that Mehserle repeatedly reached for his gun “and on the final occasion can be seen looking back at his hand on the gun/holster to watch the gun come out.”

Mehserle was sentenced to the minimum of two years in prison.

Pirone couldn’t be reached for comment on Wednesday. A phone number listed for a company founded by Mehserle was disconnected.

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