Calif. officer convicted in shooting
Racial tension as manslaughter verdict decried
LOS ANGELES — A white former transit officer was convicted of involuntary manslaughter yesterday in the shooting death of an unarmed black man on an Oakland train platform in a 2009 encounter that set off days of rioting in the city.
Prosecutors had wanted Johannes Mehserle convicted of murdering 22-year-old Oscar Grant, who was shot as he lay face-down.
Mehserle, who had contended he thought he was shooting Grant with a
Grant’s mother, Wanda Johnson, stared at the jurors and appeared upset.
One woman juror wiped tears with a tissue when the panel was polled on its decision.
On the east side of San Francisco Bay, police in riot gear were deployed on the streets of Oakland. Later yesterday, a crowd broke into a
A crowd near Oakland City Hall moaned and cursed when they heard the verdict. A dozen people gathered in a semicircle to pray.
“It’s not real, it’s not real. Where’s the justice? He was killed in cold blood,’’ said Amber Royal, 23, of Oakland.
John Burris, Grant family attorney, said the family was “extremely disappointed’’ with the verdict.
“This verdict is not a true representation of what happened to Oscar Grant,’’ Burris said.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger issued a statement urging Californians to remain calm and not resort to violence. Schwarzenegger said he had informed Oakland’s mayor, Ron Dellums, the state was well prepared to assist in maintaining order.
The jury had a choice between murder and lesser charges of voluntary or involuntary manslaughter.
The panel included eight women and four men, none of whom listed his or her race as black. Seven said they were white, three were Latino, and one was Asian-Pacific. One declined to state a race. They left the courthouse under tight security.
Involuntary manslaughter carries a sentence of two to four years. The next hearing was set for Aug. 6.
At least five bystanders videotaped the New Year’s Day shooting in what was among the most racially polarizing cases in California since four Los Angeles officers were acquitted in 1992 in the beating of Rodney King.
The case was a rare instance in which a police officer stood trial for an on-duty killing that was captured on video from so many different angles.
The verdict followed a three-week trial in which prosecutors played videos by bystanders, and witnesses recounted hearing the frightening gunshot that killed Grant.
Mehserle, 28, testified that he struggled with Grant and saw him digging in his pocket as officers responded to reports of a fight at a train station. Fearing Grant may have a weapon, Mehserle said he decided to shock Grant with his Taser but pulled his .40-caliber handgun instead.
Alameda County Deputy District Attorney David Stein said in his closing argument that Mehserle let his emotions get the better of him and intended to shoot Grant with the handgun without justification.