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Onlooker disrupts murder trial of ex-BART officer [Updated]

June 25, 2010 | 10:02 am

A court onlooker disrupted the testimony Friday morning of a former transit police officer who fatally shot an unarmed passenger at an Oakland BART station. The incident led a Los Angeles County Superior court judge to clear the courtroom and temporarily halt the trial.

The officer, 28-year-old Johannes Mehserle, is accused of shooting Oscar J. Grant III in the back on New Year's Day 2009. The case drew extensive media coverage in the Bay Area and was moved to Los Angeles. Many have drawn comparisons to the 1992 trial of four Los Angeles police officers accused of beating Rodney G. King. Mehserle is white; Grant was black.

On Friday morning, Mehserle continued his testimony and tearfully recalled the night's events.

"I thought it was my Taser," Mehserle said, crying. "I didn't think I had my gun."

[Updated at 10:30 a.m.: In further testimony, Mehserle said, "I remember the pop wasn't very loud."

He said he thought his Taser had malfunctioned.

"I remember looking at my right hand and seeing my gun in my hand," he said. "I didn’t know what to think. It shouldn't have been there."

He said he then looked down at Grant, whom he was standing over.

"Mr. Grant said, 'You shot me,'" Mehserle said.

Mehserle then began sobbing, and Grant's mother walked out of the courtroom.]

Mehserle's emotions prompted a man in the courtroom to shout at him: "You should save those ... tears, dude."

After the disruption, the judge stopped Mehserle's testimony and briefly cleared the courtroom. Authorities detained the man who shouted at Mehserle, though his identity was not immediately known.

[Updated at 12:48 p.m.: He was later identified as Timothy Killings, 24, and was being held on suspicion of disorderly behavior in a court.

Another man, Youth Radio's Anyi Howell, faces a criminal contempt hearing after a Wi-Fi hotspot device was found in court Wednesday.

Mehserle further testified that in the aftermath of the shooting, there was lot of yelling. He said he told Grant to "calm down."

"I remember him in pretty major hysterics," Mehserle said. "I was just trying to keep his eyes open."

Then Grant's eyes closed, he said.

"I was scared," he testified. "This wasn't supposed to happen. I remember putting pressure on the [gun shot] hole. I didn't know what else to do."

The former transit officer acknowledged he did handcuff Grant after the shooting but quickly uncuffed him after searching him.

His time on the platform felt like forever, he said.

"I didn't intend to shoot Mr. Grant," Mehserle said. "Just Taser him."

Prosecutor David Stein asked Mehserle under cross-examination if he was prepared to testify.

"I think about this event every single day of my life," he answered.]

-- Richard Winton at Los Angeles County Courthouse