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Dramatic video of BART shooting released by court

June 24, 2010 |  5:13 pm

Several videotapes capturing the fatal shooting of an unarmed man in Oakland by a transit police officer were released Thursday by a Los Angeles court, where the officer in on trial for murder.

Former Bay Area Rapid Transit Police Officer Johannes Mehserle, who is white, fired a single round as he stood over Oscar Grant III, who was black and was lying face-down on the subway platform. Grant, 22, was struck in the back and died hours later.

Mehserle, 28, resigned from the department days after the shooting without explaining his actions. The trial was moved to Los Angeles amid concerns about the extensive media coverage of the killing in the Bay Area.

The shooting early New Year’s Day 2009 was captured on video by several passengers on a crowded BART train.

Some of the footage was broadcast on television and the Internet, provoking angry protests at Grant’s treatment. Others have not been shown outside of court.

In response to a request by The Times, the court on Thursday released videos of the shooting that have been played for jurors in court, including some footage that has never before been made public.

Both sides contend that the footage supports their account of what led up to the shooting.

Alameda County prosecutors argue that the videos show Mehserle looking toward his holster as he drew his .40-caliber handgun and then pointing his handgun out in front of himself in plain view before he fired. Mehserle never told other officers at the station that the shooting was an accident or that he had meant to grab his Taser. Instead, he told one officer: “I thought he was going for a gun.”

But defense attorney Michael L. Rains told jurors that the videos capture Mehserle struggling to handcuff an uncooperative Grant. He said the footage shows his client having difficulty removing his handgun because he believed he was drawing his Taser, which has a holster with a different unlocking device.

On at least one of the videos, Mehserle can be seen immediately after the shooting putting his hands on his head – a reaction that Rains said confirms his shock at what had just happened. The jury is expected to begin deliberations next week.

--Jack Leonard