The BART Police officers involved in the beating and ultimate fatal shooting of Oscar Grant just over 10 years ago engaged in escalation and excessive force, according to BART's own internal investigation, and investigators did not believe former officer Johannes Mehserle's claim that he meant to reach for his Taser.
These details come from a just-released report from the Meyers Nave law firm, which BART hired to conduct its investigation into the case. And the report has been released under the newly passed state law requiring police departments to publicly disclose all documents related to use-of-force investigations.
Senate Bill 1421 took effect on January 1, though many records are just now dribbling out because of lawsuits that were being filed by police unions in recent months. The state Supreme Court twice rejected bids by unions to try to say that the law did not apply retroactively, and now some light is being shown old cases like the infamous killing of Oscar Grant.
Now, as the Chronicle reports, we learn that investigators never bought Mehserle's defense that he had intended to reach for his Taser, and that when he shouted "Fuck this" before shooting an unarmed Grant in the back, he appeared to have reached twice for his gun and looked at his weapon before shooting it. This is what investigators saw via enhanced video from the scene on New Year's Day, 2009, as KPIX/CBS SF reports.
The other officer most closely connected with the case, Anthony Pirone, also comes off looking even worse than before. "Pirone was, in large part, responsible for setting the events in motion that created a chaotic and tense situation on the platform, setting the stage, even if inadvertent, for the shooting of Oscar Grant," the report states.
The report found that Grant did nothing to fight back while Pirone struck him in the head, punched and kneed him as he forced him to the ground. It further found that Pirone lied to investigators when he said that the BART train operator that night had told him that five men had been causing trouble on the train. The operator says she never saw who was causing any trouble, and never said any such thing.
According to the report, via bystander videos, Mehserle “was intending to pull his firearm and not his Taser, as he can be seen trying to draw it at least two times and on the final occasion can be seen looking back at his hand on the gun/holster to watch the gun come out."
Pirone was fired and Mehserle ended up receiving a 2-year sentence for involuntary manslaughter, a light sentence that led to immediate protests in the streets of Oakland. With time served, Mehserle walked out of prison just seven months after he was sentenced.