DA appeals to community, defends murder charge against BART cop
Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff, at a Wednesday press conference, announced that a police officer involved in the fatal New Year's Day shooting of a citizen was on his way back to California after being arrested and waiving extradition in Douglas County, Nevada. The officer, Johannes Mehserle, was reportedly hiding out in the Lake Tahoe area after receiving death threats.
On New Year's Day, 27-year-old Mehserle was recorded by onlookers pulling his gun and shooting 22-year-old Oscar Grant III, who was restrained and in handcuffs, in the back. Grant had been taken off of a train and was being detained at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland, California by police as part of a group under suspicion of being involved in a fight.
The incident was recorded by passersby and copies made their way to the press and the police, prompting public outcry and a $25 million lawsuit filed by Grant's family against the Bay Area Rapid Transit Authority.
Unless new evidence surfaces during Mehserle's trial, Orloff said, it is being treated as a homicide. "Murder charges were filed because at this point, what I feel the evidence indicates is an unlawful killing done by an intentional act, and from the evidence we have, there's nothing that would mitigate that to something lower than a murder."
None of the other officers at the scene, he added, were being charged.
"I understand that there's a great deal of emotion in the community," he added in an appeal to the public, "and I understand that this situation raises a lot of significant social issues in our community. I would hope that people would have the respect for the system in which I've worked for 39 years, and would watch and would make their judgments based on how the system functions, and let the criminal justice system play this out.
"In terms of those that want to protest on the broader social issues, I think peaceful protest can be a very healthy thing."
The following video is from CNN.com, posted on January 14, 2009:
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