An Oakland civil rights group delivered a petition with more than 20,000 signatures to Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff demanding to know why he hasn't filed charges against a second Bay Area Rapid Transit officer involved in an incident that led to the shooting death of Oscar Grant III.
The petition submitted by ColorofChange.org alleges that BART officer Tony Pirone "appears to have committed a serious crime" by punching Grant, a 22-year-old Hayward man, shortly before officer Johannes Mehserle shot and killed Grant at the Fruitvale station in Oakland early on New Year's Day.
The petition asks Orloff, "How can ignoring it possibly be in the interest of justice?"
It tells Orloff, "It is important that you answer clearly and immediately" for the sake of Grant's family and the trust of the citizens of the Bay Area and the state.
Pirone's attorney says his client did nothing wrong.
"There was no excessive force used and there is no reason to fault Officer Pirone for doing anything other than trying to get Oscar Grant to sit down," Bill Rapoport said.
Rapoport has done a frame by frame analysis of cell phone video taken from the platform New Year's morning. He says the still show Pirone pushing Grant down after being kneed in the groin.
"The strike that everyone's talking about, the punch, the hit, is actually an open hand full palm on top of Oscar Grant's head," Rapoport said.
Orloff has charged Mehserle, 27, who resigned the week after the shooting incident, with murder in connection with Grant's death.
The shooting occurred after Mehserle and other BART police officers, including Pirone, responded to reports that two groups of young men were fighting on a train.
At a news conference Jan. 14 at which he announced the charges against Mehserle, Orloff said he didn't plan to file charges against any other BART officers.
However, Orloff said his investigation was continuing and he hadn't ruled anything out.
Orloff said today that he can't comment on the possibility of filing charges against Pirone because Alameda County Superior Court Judge Morris Jacobson has issued a gag order on all parties involved in Mehserle's case.
Gabriel Rey-Goodlatte of ColorofChange.org said the petition was signed by people across the country who visited the organization's web site.
Rey-Goodlatte said there is "a high likelihood" that more petitions will be submitted if Orloff doesn't file charges against Pirone.
Pirone's attorney, Bill Rappoport, wasn't available for comment today.
Last week Rappoport said Grant, who served time in state prison in 2007 for his convictions for drug dealing and fleeing from a traffic stop while armed with a loaded pistol, "was totally uncooperative" and "provoked Pirone" by attempting to knee the officer in the groin twice, once successfully.
Rappoport said a frame-by-frame examination of the incident shows that after Pirone was struck in the groin he swung his right forearm, not his fist, and hit Grant either in the shoulder, neck or head.
Rappoport said Grant wasn't injured in those areas and said he believes Pirone's actions were "a use of reasonable force to prevent other attacks" by Grant.
He said he doesn't think criminal charges will be filed against Pirone, who is on paid administrative leave while the incident is under investigation.