Near Riot Breaks Out at Oakland Protest

Officer moved by authorities, devastated by incident

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A near riot broke out after a protest against BART for shooting a rider last week.

    A march protesting the killing of an Oakland man at the Fruitvale BART station on New Year's Day turned violent Wednesday evening as a group of marchers attacked a police car and lit a dumpster on fire.

    File: BART Protest Turns into Riot

    [BAY] File: BART Protest Turns into Riot
    Riots broke out in January when BART cop Johannes Mehserle shot and killed BART rider Oscar Grant III. (Published Friday, Nov 5, 2010)

    An estimated 700 people gathered at the Fruitvale Bay Area Rapid Transit station Wednesday afternoon to protest the shooting of Oscar Grant III  by BART police.

    The group left the station and marched down International Boulevard in Oakland. Police was forced to respond to the crowd in riot gear after acts of vandalism and fires brokes out.

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    The death of a 22-year-old East Bay man, apparently at the hands of a BART police officer, prompted protests and the resignation of the officer in question on Wednesday. (Published Wednesday, Jan 7, 2009)

    Police marched down the street to confront protestors as the march got out of hand. There were unconfimed reports that police fired tear gas into the crowd.

    At one point a police vehicle trapped in the middle of the crowd was jumped on by angry protestors. They hit the car with sticks, broke windows and another group of protestors pushed a burning dumpster towards the car. The officer was not hurt.

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    Protest organizers said a group of anarchists, who were not part of the original protest, attacked the police cruiser and set the dumpster on fire. Police could not confirm the report.

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    [BAY] New Video Surfaces in BART Shooting
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    While the majority of the marchers were well behaved, at about 6:30 p.m. a group of protestors started causing trouble at the intersection of 8th Street and Broadway.

    At about 8:15 p.m. some protestors were seen trying to break restaurant windows in downtown Oakland. A car was also lit on fire in downtown Oakland at about 8:40 p.m. The car exploded before fire crews arrived at the scene.

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    For safety reasons, BART trains were bypassing the Fruitvale station, the Lake Merritt Station and the Oakland/12th Street Station while the protest was happening. Both the Fruitvale and Lake Marritt stations were reopened by 8 p.m.

    A man who identified himself as Kazu, who said he helped organize the initial protest said about 700 people came to the Fruitvale station at 3 p.m.

    He said a small group of people came to the BART station two hours later that were not affiliated with the peaceful protest at the station. He said that is when they seperated and started marching down the streets.

    Around 8:45 p.m., Mayor Ron Dellums met a group of protestors on 14th Street in downtown Oakland. He spoke with the protestors and marched them down 14th Street towards Broadway near city hall. The mayor asked police to leave the scene and he assured the protestors that an investigation was underway and any proper charges would be filed.

    Dellums continued to speak with protestors at city hall for more than 30 minutes. But around 9:35 p.m. Dellums abruptly left the crowd and walk into city hall after a disagreement. The crowd booed the mayor as he walked away.

    The Oakland Police Department held a press conference on Wednesday evening. They said that they received a call from BART police that the protest was getting out of hand and the crowd was starting to march down the street at about 5 p.m.

    Police said that at 8th and Madison streets about 150 to 250 people broke off  from the march and they began to vandalize stores and vehicles. Officers followed the break off crowd and they tried to control the crowd.

    Police said they used an unspecified gas to control the crowd.

    Officers arrested 14 adults and 1 juvenile after that incident. One person was charged with assaulting an officer but no officers were injured.

    Officers were expected to stay on the street through the night and they were also planning to be at a protest scheduled for 9 a.m. on Thursday.

    Another rally organizer named Evan Shamar said at the BART station, before the protest broke out in near riots, that Grant "was executed right here while he was hogtied" and vowed "we will not be silent."

    Shamar said BART police officer Johannes Mehserle, who shot Grant after he and other officers responded to a report that two groups of men were fighting on a train, "should be prosecuted for second-degree murder."

    There was a loud cheer from the crowd before the riot broke out when Shamar announced to the crowd, "We just got word that the officer (Mehserle) has resigned."

    But Shamar said there's still unfinished business, saying, "We want him charged in an American courtroom."

    The crowd then chanted, "No justice, no peace!"

    Protesters booed when Leslie Littleton, Dellums' deputy chief of staff, read a statement at the station demonstration from Dellums in which the mayor said, "Our entire community grieves at the loss of Oscar Grant III" and "I am profoundly saddened by the turn of events that resulted in the loss of a young man's life which has left a family and a community."

    The protesters said they think that Dellums should have been at the rally to speak for himself.

    Littleton told the crowd that Dellums couldn't attend the rally because he was holding a news conference at City Hall to talk about Grant's shooting death.

    Rally organizers said they will have another protest at BART headquarters at 9 a.m. Thursday when the transit agency's board of directors has a meeting.

    BART Officer Resigns as Victim is Mourned

    A Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer who shot and killed Oscar  Grant III at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland early on New Year's Day  has resigned, BART officials said Wednesday afternoon.
     
    BART spokesman Jim Allison said Officer Johannes Mehserle's  attorney and his union representative submitted his letter of resignation at  a meeting with BART investigators this morning.
     
    The officer himself was not present, Allison said.
     
    Mehserle had been scheduled to meet with BART investigators on  Tuesday but his attorney on Monday canceled that meeting and requested to  postpone it until next week, Allison said.
     
    BART investigators declined and instead rescheduled the meeting  for Wednesday, Allison said. The investigators have not yet spoken with Mehserle about the shooting that killed 22-year-old Grant.
     
    Allison said BART has informed the Alameda County District  Attorney's office, which is conducting a separate investigation into the  shooting, of today's developments.
     
    BART investigators have urged Mehserle to meet with them and to  cooperate with the investigation, Allison said.

     

    BART Spokesman Linton Johnson said earlier Wednesday, that it appeared Mehserle has been cooperative but that his attorney hasn't made him available.

    Johnson said BART officials hope Mehserle will talk to investigators soon.

    He said if Mehserle continues to follow his lawyer's advice not to talk, BART is prepared to employ "a procedural tactic aimed at compelling him to talk."

    Johnson explained that Mehserle doesn't have to talk to the district attorney, but that BART can take a job-related action against him if he doesn't cooperate.
     
    Dorothy Dugger, BART's general manager, prepared a statement that  was released at the same time BART announced the resignation.
     
    "This shooting is a tragic event in every respect for everyone involved," Dugger said. "We recognize that the family and friends of Oscar  Grant are in mourning and we extend our condolences."
     
    Mehserle's resignation comes on the same day as Grant's funeral,  which was held at 11 a.m. at Palma Ceia Baptist Church in Hayward.
     
    The shooting, which occurred shortly after 2 a.m. on Jan. 1 after  BART police stopped a train at the Fruitvale station due to reports of a  fight on board, was captured on video by witnesses using cell phone cameras.  Some gave their footage to the media, and the images have sparked an outcry  from the community.
     
    A protest was held outside BART headquarters on Monday, and more  protests are planned for this afternoon at the Fruitvale BART station.
     
    Oakland Councilwoman Desley Brooks participated in a rally Wednesday morning at the Alameda County District Attorney's office that was attended by  dozens of people. The rally was aimed at pressuring the district attorney's  office to bring charges against Mehserle.

    Ceremony Held for Grant

    Palma Ceia Baptist Church in Hayward was packed with mourners Wednesday who celebrated the life of 22-year-old Oscar Grant.

    One person in attendance described it as "standing room only."

    Many family members and friends were crying and barely able to stand as they walked in to view the body.

    Rev. Ronald Coleman said, "This is what we call love. We are here because little Oscar was saved. Not long ago when he was a little boy we were here when he accepted Christ."

    Law enforcement officials urged patience while they investigated details surrounding the fatal New Year's Day shooting of Grant.

    Cell phone video footage of the shooting given to local media by witnesses has sparked outrage in the community.  Johnson said today Mehserle has received death threats and has had to move twice to ensure his safety.

    Mehserle became a father in the days after the shooting.  He has been described as devastated over the shooting, but still has not given a statement to investigators.

    Johnson says Mehserle's lawyer came to the station two hours after the shooting and advised the officer to invoke his right to retain counsel and not say anything.

    Grant, who had a 4-year-old daughter, worked as a butcher at Farmer Joe's grocery store in Oakland.

    Family members of Grant filed a $25 million claim against BART Tuesday.

    Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris represents the family.

    Several unanswered questions remained after BART officers went to Oakland's Fruitvale station to investigate reports of a supposed brawl on a train on which Grant was riding around 2 a.m. Thursday.

    A friend of Grant's who was with him on the crowded Oakland train station platform at the time of the shooting said Grant pleaded with officers not to harm him.

    "Oscar yelled, 'You shot me! I got a four-year-old daughter,"' said Fernando Anicete. "Oscar was telling us to calm down and we did. We weren't looking for any trouble."

    Burris claims the shooting was intentional, and that he planned to ask Alameda County prosecutors to seek criminal charges against the officer. Burris said Grant, of Hayward, Calif., posed no threat to officers when a bullet entered his back and ricocheted to his lung area, killing him almost instantly.

    "The officer leaned (in), was straddling over him and pointed his gun directly into the backside and shot (Grant)," said Burris, adding that Grant was handcuffed -- after he was shot. "This was not a deadly force situation."

    Gee said BART police are fully cooperating with the district attorney's investigation.

    BART spokesman Jim Allison has said the officer's gun went off while police were trying to restrain Grant and that Grant was not cuffed. The unidentified officer was on paid leave as BART investigates the shooting until he resigned on Wednesday.

    Mario Pangelina, Mesa's brother who was riding on the same train, two cars behind Grant on Thursday morning, said Sunday he saw Grant beg police not to Taser him because of his child.

    "He kept saying, 'Please, please don't Tase me,"' Pangelina said. "He was not acting hostile."

    Other witnesses said Grant was lying on his stomach on the station's platform when he was shot.

    Recordings of the shooting by witnesses have surfaced and Burris said BART had confiscated numerous cell phone images from others he believes contain additional footage.

    Services for Grant  were held Wednesday.

    Shortly before the funeral was to begin, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums issued a statement offering condolences to the man's family.

    "Our entire community grieves at the loss of Oscar Grant III," Dellums said.

    Dellums said he was "profoundly saddened" by the death.

    "Our hearts and deepest wishes for peace go out to the families and loved ones of the parties involved in this tragic event," Dellums said.

    The statement was issued less than an hour before Grant's 11 a.m. funeral was to begin at Palma Ceia Baptist Church in Hayward.