Several activist groups will hold a news conference today to protest the upcoming release of former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for fatally shooting unarmed passenger Oscar Grant III.
Cat Brooks of the ONYX Organizing Committee said the news conference will be held at 3 p.m. at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland, where Mehserle, 29, shot and killed Grant, a 22-year-old Hayward man.
The shooting happened around 2 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2009, after Mehserle and other BART officers responded to reports of a fight on a train.
Mehserle admitted that he shot and killed Grant but said he had meant to use his Taser stun gun on Grant and fired his service gun by mistake.
Alameda County prosecutors sought to have Mehserle convicted of second-degree murder, but in a verdict on July 8 that sparked a large protest in downtown Oakland, jurors only convicted Mehserle of the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter.
On Nov. 5, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert Perry sentenced Mehserle to two years, but Brooks said it’s expected that Mehserle will be released around June 15 because he’s being given credit for time he served in jail before and after his conviction.
Mehserle’s lawyer, Michael Rains, and a spokeswoman for the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
Brooks said the purpose of today’s news conference, which will also include speakers from the Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant and the New Years Movement, “is to remind and alert people that Mesherle will be released soon.”
Brooks said that on the day that Mehserle is released from custody, there will be “a large-scale demonstration” both at the Fruitvale BART station and at 14th Street and Broadway in downtown Oakland.
Brooks said the activist groups are protesting the release of Mehserle because they think the criminal justice system gives lenient treatment to police officers who shoot and kill young black men.
Grant was black and Mehserle is white.
“It’s open season on communities of color, and the light sentence for Mehserle sends a message to police officers that they can do whatever they want and there will be no consequences,” Brooks said.
Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News