In the early hours of New Year’s Day 2009, Oscar Grant was killed by transit police officers in Oakland, California, in what became one of the most high-profile police killings in Bay area history. California Attorney General Rob Bonta said he plans to open an “independent review” of one of the officer’s actions.
After reports of fighting on a train, BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) police detained several passengers on the Fruitvale station platform including Grant. Officer Anthony Pirone called Grant a racial expletive then proceeded to punch Grant in the face and kneed Grant who was put face down on the floor in the head. Pirone also applied pressure to Grant’s back to prevent his hands from becoming free, according to a BART internal investigative report.
When Pirone let up, Grant put his hands behind his back as he was told to so he could be handcuffed. Then another officer, Johannes Mehserle, fatally shot him. Mehserle claimed he had mistakenly grabbed his firearm instead of a Taser, The Mercury News reported.
Mehserle was initially charged with murder but was eventually convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2011. He served 11 months in prison, the New York Daily News reported.
Pirone was never charged in the fatal incident. In a court deposition, he said that he had used force because Grant took a swing at him after refusing orders to stay seated during detainment on the BART platform.
Video footage and a 2009 BART internal investigative report, released a decade later in a public record request, showed that Pirone was largely responsible for the escalation of events after police responded to a report of fighting in a train, The Mercury News reported.
“It was our position that Pirone was the real culprit,” said civil rights attorney John Burris, who has represented Grant’s family members in civil cases. “He’s the one who caused the whole thing to occur. If it wasn’t for him, there wouldn’t have been a shooting.”
“The actions of Officer Pirone started a cascade of events that ultimately led to the shooting of Grant,” the report said.
Attorney General Bonta had called for further investigation of Grant’s case when he was an assemblyman.
Grant’s killing was the subject of a 2013 movie, “Fruitvale Station,” starring Michael B. Jordan.
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