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Investigation reopens into death of Oscar Grant, a Black man killed by a BART transit officer in 2009

Cephus Johnson stands next to a poster of his nephew Oscar Grant during a protest outside a Los Angeles courthouse in 2011.
Cephus Johnson stands next to a poster of his nephew Oscar Grant during a protest outside a downtown Los Angeles courthouse in 2011. The Alameda County prosecutor announced Monday that she will reopen the investigation into the killing of Grant by a transit authority police officer in 2009.
(Nick Ut / Associated Press)

A Northern California prosecutor on Monday announced that she will reopen an investigation into the 11-year-old killing of a Black man by a transit officer.

Oscar Grant, 22, was fatally shot in the back by Bay Area Rapid Transit Officer Johannes Mehserle while on the floor of a train station on New Year’s Day in 2009.

Mehserle was charged with murder, but a Los Angeles County jury found him guilty only of involuntary manslaughter, and he served 11 months. The case was moved to Los Angeles amid concern about the extensive media coverage of the killing in the Bay Area.

Mehserle claimed he mistakenly grabbed his gun instead of his Taser.

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The case received more widespread attention in 2013 when the movie “Fruitvale Station,” which chronicled the last day of Grant’s life, was released.

Alameda County Dist. Atty. Nancy O’Malley’s announcement came hours after Grant’s family held a news conference at the train station asking her to investigate the role of another officer in Grant’s death, the Mercury News reported.

The family wants charges to be filed against former Officer Anthony Pirone, who pinned Grant down with a knee to his neck in a manner similar to that used in the death of George Floyd, who died in police custody in Minneapolis.

“We have listened closely to the requests of the family of Oscar Grant,” O’Malley said in a statement.

A federal jury decided unanimously Tuesday that the BART police officer who killed Oscar Grant III in 2009 owed no compensation to Grant’s father, who was in prison during his son’s life.

A 2009 BART police internal investigation report, released last year after a public records request, concluded that Pirone contributed significantly to Grant’s shooting, the newspaper reported.

Pirone was fired for his role and his statements that contradicted video surveillance and other officers’ and witnesses’ accounts of that night. The report found that he disregarded his training and rushed through the initial investigation, starting a “cascade of events that ultimately led to the shooting of Grant.”

“Justice delayed is justice denied,” said Grant’s mother, Wanda Johnson. “We should not have to wait another 11 years. … We were told then that it should happen, and it should happen now.”

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The Associated Press could not immediately reach Pirone. A phone number listed for him was disconnected.

In ‘Fruitvale Station,’ parallels to Trayvon Martin

O’Malley said she has assigned a team of lawyers “to look back into the circumstances that caused the death of Oscar Grant. We will evaluate the evidence and the law, including the applicable law at the time and make a determination.”

The transit agency later agreed to pay Grant’s daughter $5.1 million in a settlement.


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