Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

BART officer charged with murder appears in L.A. court

More than 100 protesters demanding justice for a Bay Area man shot to death by a BART police officer on New Year's Day last year converged on a downtown Los Angeles courthouse today for the first proceedings since the racially charged case was moved here from Alameda County.

Johannes Mehserle, who resigned from the Bay Area Rapid Transit police force a week after the shooting he admits to but contends was unintentional, will stand trial for murder before Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert J. Perry in May, the judge said at his pretrial hearing.

Perry prolonged a gag order issued by an Alameda County judge prohibiting either side in the case from discussing it in public. He also rejected a request from Bay Area broadcasters to allow televised coverage of the trial in light of the intense public interest in the shooting death that provoked three days of rioting that damaged dozens of Oakland businesses.

Perry said his experience of high-profile trials is that allowing cameras in the courtroom "is detrimental to the search for truth and justice." The judge said he would prohibit cellphones, texting, the use of laptop computers and all other means of recording or transmitting the proceedings when the trial begins in mid-May.

Mehserle, 28, has received death threats, as have his family and attorneys, posing a risk to the safety of witnesses who might testify on his behalf, Perry said in denying broadcast coverage of the proceedings for the benefit of Bay Area residents unable to travel to Los Angeles for the trial.

Mehserle's attorney, Michael Rains, told the court that his client wasn't contesting the cause of death in the Jan. 1, 2009, slaying of Oscar J. Grant III at Oakland's Fruitvale station. What is at issue in the case, Rains said, is the former officer's "intent" in the incident. It is rare for a police officer to be charged with murder in an on-duty shooting due to the qualified immunity accorded law enforcement.

Many of the protesters who picketed the courthouse traveled from the Bay Area to hoist placards demanding justice for Grant, the 22-year-old Hayward man shot to death as BART officers were trying to subdue a trainload of unruly New Year's revelers.

Dozens of witnesses reported seeing the white officer shoot Grant, who is black, including some who captured the killing on cellphone cameras.

Mehserle told Alameda County authorities at preliminary court proceedings that he was reaching for his stun gun and accidentally drew his revolver instead.

"There are thousands of Oscar Grants everyday," Hannibal Shakur, a 23-year-old Oakland student making a documentary about the victim, said in front of the crowd outside the courthouse.

"It was a shame. It was a clear murder," Shakur said. "Young brothers get killed by the police everyday. I'm guessing (Mehserle) won't be held accountable. L.A. has a history. If they wanted to give us justice, they could have done that in Oakland."

The trial was moved to Southern California because of the high publicity surrounding the case in the Bay Area.

-- Carol J. Williams and Gerrick D. Kennedy

Photos: Protest in L.A. as former BART officer appears in court

Photos: BART shooting protests in January 2009

Photo: Protesters demanding justice for a Bay Area man shot to death by a BART police officer demonstrate outside the Criminal Courts building in Los Angeles. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (29)

America is a nation founded on law, not excuses. Self-evident facts claim all are equal and under the law...Without liberty, injustice for all.

Hmmm. The definition of "Justice for Oscar Grant" has changed from meaning sending him to prison for crimes he committed on others, to meaning crimes committed by others upon him. Ironic.

blah blah blah blah...he shouldn't of been acting suspicious. oh well

very sad story. hope this doesn't turn into another "rodney king trial" riot.

This 'report' failed to state the fact that Oscar was restrained and lying face down on the ground with his arms behind his back when he was shot in the back of the head by the Bart cop.

I am sad to say as a black man from LA that this case just like all the others, will be a non guilty. And you will see officers giving high fives as they laugh and leave the courtroom. Blacks get shot in the back, or shot for reaching for wallets, or "we thought he had a gun" or any other reason. Now they have a new one. I reached for my tazer and it was a gun.
My biggest problem is this new situation that started with Rodney King.... When cops have video evidence, they use it to their advantage. When citizens have video evidence, they say "Don't believe what you see in the video, thats just one side". They are spin doctors. And another dead blackman is the result.

Why are these people causing trouble before the trial...They should wait for the trial verdict...Why are they trying to sway the jury verdict by fear...I think they're hurting there own cause...

I don't know enough about this case, did the officer just shoot this guy because he was Black or is there more to it than that...

I wonder if they caught the officer's thought process at the time of the shooting with their cell phones cameras... probably not...

Anyway, it's going to be interesting, I'm thinking many more people will be incarcerated because of this...

There needs to be justice for this victim. How do you think your reaching for a stun gun but instead pull out a loaded gun and shoot somebody dead? I could only hope they can find 12 men and woman who will convict this cop of murder. Lets start putting the real bad guys away!

There were 124 murders in Oakland in 2008, and 107 in 2009. I wonder if these people protest those also, as "stolen lives?" Probably not, isn't very stylish or hip.

Eight seconds were edited out of the Rodney King video to get the conviction on the federal re-trial according to an independent study by a Virginia human rights non-profit. This guy will face the same try it until we like the results justice in the interest of political correctness as did the officers who beat the model citizen King who was just minding his own business doing 90 on PCP.

"Mehserle told Alameda County authorities at preliminary court proceedings that he was reaching for his stun gun and accidentally drew his revolver instead."

That's his excuse??? He did not only pull his revolver out, but he pointed it and pulled the trigger. And all of this was caught on video. What more do you need?

Someone who is not able to distinguish a gun from a tazer, should not be qualified to have a badge.

Why is it that all these people are protesting and demanding for justice out on the street and in front of the courthouse for this guy that got killed by a cop but when someone from their neighborhood gets killed buy a gang member or someone from their neighborhood nobody seen anything?? I think they are just a bunch of hippocrates I feel bad for the guy but why not do this for eveyrone else that gets killed by somone with a gun.

A word of advice...comply with lawful direction...why was this criminal resisting and not complying...why did the other officers have to restrain him...It sounds like he caused the incident...I hope i'm picked for the jury...

Truth: Smart is not a prereq for becoming a peace officer, but it does help. If I had to guess, I'd say he didn't do it on purpose - who would want to willingly jump into this tar pit. Very few officers are Sgt. Friday or officer Gannon - thoughtful, discreet, and with valid behavior. What a shame, though.

I have been in law enforcement for 16 years, and I have been in many heated and dangerous situations. I have never, nor could I ever make the mistake this officer claims that he made. Weapon familiarity/manipulation is so engrained into you in the police academy that it is highly unlikely that you could ever forget where your weapon is located on your person, what your gun "feels" like or what it "looks" like. If this officer had any time in the field beyond his academy training he would have surely gained even more familiarity with his weapon. My hope is that these lone actions don't overshadow the tough job that law enforcement does everyday under extreme conditions.

I guarantee you if this cop is found not guilty, there will be rioting up and down California...And with the economy the way it is right now, people losing their homes, jobs evaporating..taxes going up...college tuition going up all over the country....Entitlement programs disappearing or being cut...The state is a dry tinder box waiting for a spark...The riots to follow this trial will make 1992 look like a picnic.

It was an accident. The officer thought he was reaching for his taser. Mr. Grant should not have been acting like a jerk in the first place. In 40 years I have never had trouble with the cops. Just don't screw around and this won't happen.

Whether Oscar was good or bad, black or white is not the point. The point is hw was proned out on the ground with his hands cuffed behind his back and a big policeman sitting on his neck. Why was there even a need to tase Oscar to begin with. Let alone shooting him in the back and killing him. This is so weak man

The only reason this has gone to a criminal trial is because liberal whites and racist, radical blacks want to cause trouble. Oscar Grant is no martyr. Why can't we see the rest of that smiling photo of him being the Good Daddy to his little girl that the media love to show? The part that shows the gang sign he was supposed to be flashing? This circus trial will railroad an innocent officer, and do nothing for the family of Grant, except of course, make them very rich. Seems Oscar Grant is worth more to his mother dead than alive. A very sick family there. And to Ted, the supposed Law Enforcement "veteran of 16 years": you don't know jack about real Police Work. What kind of "law enforcement" work did you actually do? A clerk typist in the front lobby? You're a joke.

If people want to effectively protest the killing of innocent black folks, they also need to start showing up at rallies against illegal immigration. In recent years, FAR MORE black people have been killed by gangbangers who were illegal immigants than have been killed by police!!

If this guy is found not guilty or even guilty on a lesser charge and there ARE riots, it will just expose the animals that inhabit this country. Anyone rioting should be shot on sight.

The reason why they don't want any cameras in the courtroom is because they want the issue to remain in the dark. That way the police officers in the past, present, and future can continue to murder our children and get away with it scott free.I mean after all,he was only a (nigga) right?

Mel: I actually worked gangs in South Los Angeles. Take your emotions out of your comments. Why are you attacking my experiences, they are mine and 100% factual. Have you ever laced up a pair of boots, put on a vest, and put it all on the line for people you don't know? That's doubtful. I, on the other hand have and I can speake without bias. And by the way, I have never worked a desk job, I have spent my entire career in the trenches. I run to the gun fire, not away from it!

Based on the cop's defense, this is involuntary manslaughter. A felony plea is appropriate with the law. The cop won't plea because he thinks he can get away with it, and if riots result that kill tens or hundreds, so what as far as he cares? The "war on drugs" keeps cops and prison guards employed, and who cares if it kills thousands in the US each year?

Most of you people commenting are just as bad as the police. Nobody likes gangs. And people victimized by gangs can and usually do work with the police and solve crimes when they happen to them. You can watch any crime show on tv and see how crimes are solved with tips from the community. But you try to say we are not out there reacting to crime. We have rallies and afterschool programs and all types of things to help the community. But you dont see any problem with police, who are supposed to protect and serve, to come in and take an occasional brother here and there out. I live in Inglewood where it was just found that 5 out of the 11 police shootings lately were of unarmed black men.
Think before you post. If you or your family or somebody you knew was shot in the back while they were being detained, you wouldnt want anybody saying "Well he shouldnt have doing whatever he did". People get pulled over and stopped for many reasons. The problem is that blacks get "accidently shot" by the police way far too often. The fact that we are talking about it so often. But to most of you, we are all guilty anyway. So thats why the police can shoot first and call it a day, and wait for their lawyers to handle the details of the non guilty verdict later.

1 2 | »


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...


About L.A. Now
L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
Have a story tip for L.A. Now?
Can I call someone with news?
Yes. The city desk number is (213) 237-7847.


Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: