Civil rights groups, law enforcement officials and transportation agencies are keeping their eyes on a Los Angeles courtroom where a judge will decide today if former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle should be released on bail.
Mehserle, 28, is serving a two-year state prison sentence for his involuntary manslaughter conviction for fatally shooting unarmed passenger Oscar Grant III at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland on Jan. 1, 2009, but he is seeking to be freed on bail while he appeals his conviction.
Rachel Jackson of the Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant said if Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert Perry frees Mehserle on bail her group will organize a protest either in downtown Oakland or at the Fruitvale station.
However, she said that if Perry denies bail the group will only have a small rally or perhaps just issue a press release.
Jackson said some coalition members are in Los Angeles today to attend Mehserle’s hearing, which is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m.
BART spokesman Linton Johnson said the transit agency will be monitoring the developments at Mehserle’s hearing so it can be prepared for any protests.
But Johnson said “today is no different than any other day” because BART is always monitoring events to make sure that the system is safe.
A Nov. 11 rally to protest the shooting death of Grant, as well as the shooting death of Oakland barbershop owner Derrick Jones at the hands of two police officers on Nov. 8, caused BART to close the Fruitvale station for about an hour.
Grant was shot after Mehserle and other BART officers responded to reports that there had been a fight on a train.
Mehserle admitted that he shot and killed Grant but testified that it was an accident because he had meant to fire his Taser stun gun but fired his gun by mistake.
His trial was moved to Los Angeles because of concerns about whether he could get a fair trial in Alameda County because of extensive media coverage the shooting has received in the Bay Area.
Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News