Family members of slain man weren't allowed to protest ex-BART officer's release, relative says
A former transit officer convicted in the fatal shooting of an unarmed man at an Oakland train station was released from jail early Monday without relatives being allowed to lodge a protest, an uncle of the slain man said.
"They snuck him out," Cephus Johnson, 53, a systems engineer, said during a demonstration outside U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles.
Johannes Mehserle, 29, was released after serving 11 months of a two-year sentence for involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of Oscar Grant III on New Year's Day 2009.
Grainy video footage of the shooting showed Mehserle, who is white, firing one round into the back of Grant, who was black.
Mehserle testified he meant to use his Taser but mistakenly grabbed his pistol. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert Perry ruled Friday that Mehserle should be given credit for time served and good behavior.
Johnson said he was on the phone with a court clerk as the judge was issuing his decision. The clerk told him the hearing on the release would be held Monday morning, Johnson said.
A court representative was not immediately available to comment on Johnson's allegations.
Johnson said he read in the Los Angeles Times that Mehserle would be released Monday and went to the jail early in the morning to await his departure. But the inmate never appeared.
Johnson said he received a recorded message notifying him of the release a half-hour after Mehserle left custody at 12:01 a.m.
"It was very sneaky," Johnson said. "Celebrities as well as others have to walk out that door. Why was he allowed to slip out the back door as if it never happened?"
Johnson said he had met with the Department of Justice's civil rights division, most recently 1 1/2 months ago, to ask that federal charges be brought against Mehserle.
Johnson said the division reported that it was investigating the case but "can't promise any charges at this time."
Protesters in front of the federal courthouse Monday also demanded that the Department of Justice bring charges against Mehserle.
A Los Angeles jury convicted Mehserle last July of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Grant on the platform of the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland.
The racially charged case sparked riots and protests in Oakland, followed by more unrest when Mehserle was not convicted of a more serious charge and received a sentence of just two years.
-- Gale Holland at U.S. District Court
Photo: Community activist Sheena Chou stands outside the federal courthouse in downtown Los Angeles to protest the release from prison of Johannes Mehserle, a former Bay Area transit officer. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times