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BART settles in wrongful shooting

Two and a half years after Oscar Grant III was shot to death by a Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer on an Oakland train station platform, the agency agreed Tuesday to pay the unarmed man’s mother $1.3 million to settle her civil case against it and the officers involved.

Wanda Johnson, Grant’s mother, had sued BART and the officers for $50 million, charging wrongful death and violation of civil rights.

Her son, 22, had been traveling home on New Year’s Day 2009 after a celebration in San Francisco when a fight broke out in his rail car.

The African American supermarket butcher was lying face down on the Fruitvale station platform when he was fatally shot by Officer Johannes Mehserle, 29.

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The white officer said he thought he had pulled out his Taser, not his .40-caliber pistol.

Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and released in mid-June after serving 11 months of a two-year sentence.

The shooting, conviction and release all sparked protests, some violent. Demonstrators charged racism in Grant’s death and leniency in Mehserle’s punishment.

“This has been an extraordinary situation for the mom, with the nature of the death and the criminal prosecution,” John Burris, Johnson’s attorney, said Tuesday.

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“This brings closure to these events in a way that’s necessary. She’s very emotional, but she saw it was in her best interests to move on.”

In 2010, BART settled with Grant’s then-5-year-old daughter, Tatiana, for $1.5 million.

Settlement talks continue in suits filed by Grant’s father, as well as several friends who were with him and witnessed the shooting.

“No matter what anyone’s opinion of the case may be, the sad fact remains that this incident has left Wanda Johnson without a son,” BART board member Lynette Sweet said in a written statement.

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“We’re working hard to make the [BART] Police Department the best it can be for our officers, our customers and our community. This settlement is critical in our efforts to move forward.”

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maria.laganga@latimes.com


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