BART Victim's Family Denounces Oakland Violence

"Not what Oscar stood for. Not the life he lead."

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    ©Justin Warren/jsight.com
    People protest the BART killing on Tuesday night.

    The family of the BART rider who was shot and killed, causing a wave of violent protest that swept the city of Oakland Wednesday night, is speaking out against actions taken by protesters.

    "Oscar would not want to see the violence, the fires," said Wanda Johnson, the mother of 22-year-old Oscar Grant, who died New Year's Day. "You are hurting people who had nothing to do with the situation. Please stop it. Just please."

    Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris represents the family. He said the family does not condone Wednesday night's violence.

    Calm Restored in Oakland

    [BAY] Calm Restored in Oakland
    It was a wild night in Oakland Wednesday as a protest against the fatal shooting of a BART rider gets out of control.

    "It's not what Oscar stood for," Burris said. "It is not the life he lead."

    Grant's situation is "symbolic for many African American and Hispanic males of how police respond to them," he said. "We recognize in the city of Oakland there have been a number of police shootings over the past year."

    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.

    Oakland police made more than 100 arrests Wednesday night during  an unruly demonstration spurred by the New Year's day shooting death of Oscar Grant  III at the hands of a transit agency police officer, and protesters staged new demonstrations Thursday.
     
    Many people were taken into custody on a variety of charges,  including arson and vandalism, during a mass arrest in the 2100 block of  Broadway Wednesday night, police said.

    Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and police announced Thursday afternoon that the Oakland Police Department would be investigating Grant's shooting, along with the district attorney's office, in addition to the BART police investigation.

    Burris had heard that was a possibility and welcomed the idea, saying he was open to an investigation by Oakland police or "another police agency with more experience" with homicides.

    Officers recovered two weapons during the mass arrest, according  to police, who also broke up an unlawful assembly in the area of 16th Street  and San Pablo Avenue.

    Rally organizers held another protest at BART headquarters at 9 a.m. Thursday when the transit agency's board of directors held a meeting.

    Grant's uncle, Cephus Johnson, said he was unaware of the violence brewing while he was attending the Grant's memorial service Wednesday.

    "We believe in the process. We have always believed in the process," Johnson said.

    He urged people to go through the system rather than cause upheaval.

    A group of Grant's friends also opposed Wednesday night's violence.

    Speaking on their behalf, Mario Pangelino Jr. said "Everyone be cool. Just be out there in support of us."

    Wednesday Protest Results in Injury of NBC Reporter

    The protest Wednesday began peacefully at the Fruitvale Bay Area Rapid Transit station, but forced the closure of that station from about 3  p.m. to 7 p.m. before protesters moved through the city.

    At one point, reporter George Kiriyama was hit in the arm by a tear gas can.  He explained live on television, "I've been hit. I've been hit."  Kiriyama suffered a bruise to his arm.

    The Lake Merritt and Oakland City Center/12th Street stations were  also temporarily closed because of the protest.

    The demonstration turned violent later in the night, with  several acts of vandalism in various parts of the city.

    Evan Shamar, an organizer of the protest, said the police presence  was "extremely intense" at about 8:15 p.m., adding that officers used tear  gas in an effort to control the crowd.

    He said a group of anarchists, who were not part of the  organizations hosting the rally, smashed a police vehicle before setting a  garbage can on fire.

    Oakland fire Lt. David Brue said firefighters quickly extinguished  a Dumpster fire at 12th and Madison streets around 7 p.m.

    Another fire was later visible at Madison and 16th streets around  8:45 p.m.

    Several blocks were closed to traffic in downtown Oakland and the  windows of a McDonald's restaurant were smashed in at 14th and Jackson  streets.

    Trash was spread along downtown streets and car windshields were  shattered along 14th Street.

    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 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.

    Burris said he had agreed to represent 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.

     

    Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums walked to City Hall alongside dozens of  protesters at about 9:30 p.m., and said "I'm just a guy out here."  He spoke to the protesters and asked them all to go home.