California prosecutors reopened investigations against Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old unarmed black man whose fatal shots by a transit officer in 2009 sparked protests and was among the first to be caught on a cellphone camera and shared on social media.
Grant’s murder “had a major impact on the county and the state,” said Alameda District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, citing calls from Grant’s family to re-examine the case.
“I hired a team of lawyers to investigate the circumstances that caused Oscar Grant’s death,” she said. “We will evaluate the evidence and the law, including applicable law and statute of limitations, and make a decision.”
O’Malley has not detailed the intended focus of the review.
Grant was shot dead on January 1, 2009 on a train station platform in Oakland. The white transit officer Johannes Mehserle who killed him had responded to a report of a fight when he shot Grant, who was unarmed, in the back.
The bystander video of Grant’s murder was posted on social media and shared with local news outlets.
When hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets demanding Mehserle’s prosecution, the officer was charged with murder. Mehserle, who was tried in a Los Angeles court, told jurors that he believed he was pulling the trigger – not his service weapon – when he fired at Grant.
A jury convicted him of involuntary manslaughter and he was released from prison after eleven months.
However, a report received by news outlets last year through a new law on police transparency said that a second officer at the station, Anthony Pirone, “was largely responsible for starting what was a chaotic and chaotic event tense situation on the police caused platform, “according to The Associated Press.
Grant’s family said Monday that Pirone – who was released after the shooting but was never charged with criminal charges – should be charged with murder, the East Bay Times reported. Efforts to reach Pirone for comment were unsuccessful.
In the report, which was produced by a law firm that was conducting an internal investigation into the killing of the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, Pirone told investigators that Grant was wrestling with him prior to the shooting, the AP reported.
But a video from the train station where Grant was killed showed the cop hit him in the head and Grant knelt while he didn’t struggle, the report said, according to the AP.
The attorneys who recommended Pirone’s dismissal said he used racist charges against Grant and used “repeated, unreasonable and unnecessary” violence, the AP reported.
O’Malley didn’t say if the new review would focus only on Pirone, but Mehserle’s attorney, Michael Rains, said he believed it would because Mehserle had already been tried and convicted on state charges.
He said the statute of limitations is likely to be a significant hurdle to prosecuting charges against Pirone. He said the Alameda prosecutor, which was prosecuting Mehserle under a different prosecutor, had known “every detail” about the officers’ involvement since 2009.
“There was no new evidence related to the January 1, 2009 events that Ms. O’Malley had not known for a decade. I am therefore surprised, if not suspicious, of the motivation behind today’s announcement.” he said.
The Associated Press contributed.