The father of a 22-year-old Hayward man who was fatally shot by a BART officer in Oakland in 2009 testified in federal court in San Francisco today that his son was the most treasured element in his life.
“They took the most precious thing in the world to me, my only child,” Oscar Grant Jr. told a civil jury in the court of U.S. District Judge Edward Chen.
“I loved my son like any other father who loves his son,” he said.
Grant testified in a civil rights lawsuit he filed against former BART officer Johannes Mehserle on a claim of loss of familial association with his son, Oscar Grant III.
Mehserle shot and killed Grant III, who was unarmed, on the platform of BART’s Fruitvale station shortly after 2 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2009. He has contended he intended to fire his Taser stun gun to subdue Grant but accidentally drew his revolver instead.
Mehserle and several other officers had gone to the station to respond to a report of a disturbance on a train.
Oscar Grant Jr. has been in prison since before his son was born and is serving a life sentence for his first-degree murder conviction for the 1985 slaying of an Oakland man.
But he has claimed he maintained a relationship with his son through visits, letters and phone calls and hoped to expand the relationship after his expected release on parole within several years.
“I miss being able to talk to my son. I miss being able to have the opportunity to get out” and spend time with him, the father testified.
He is seeking unspecified financial compensation for the loss of the relationship.
Grant is currently incarcerated at California State Prison, Solano, in Vacaville, but has been allowed to attend the trial, dressed in civilian clothes and guarded by two state correctional officers.
The jury knows he is serving a prison term, but has not been told why.
Mehserle, 33, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in a 2010 criminal trial that was moved to Los Angeles because of intense publicity about the shooting. He was sentenced to two years in prison and was released in 2011 after receiving credit for time served.
The current trial concerns the last of several civil lawsuits filed against BART, Mehserle and other officers.
In other cases, BART previously agreed to settlements of $1.5 million with Grant’s young daughter; $1.3 million with his mother, Wanda Johnson; and $175,000 with five friends of Grant’s who were detained at the station.
The trial also includes a related lawsuit in which the estate of a deceased friend, Johntue Caldwell, is suing BART officer Marysol Domenici for allegedly using excessive force in threatening him with a Taser. Caldwell died in an unrelated shooting in 2011.
Mehserle and Domenici are being defended by BART in the civil case because they were on duty at the time of the incident.
The trial, which began June 9, is nearing completion and may reach closing arguments by Friday.
Mehserle was called to the stand earlier in the trial and wept silently as he told the jury, “I didn’t intend to shoot him.”
In testimony that was similar to his statements in his 2010 criminal trial, he said he wanted to stun Grant, who was on the platform floor, because he saw Grant digging in his pocket for what Mehserle feared might be a gun as Mehserle was trying to handcuff him.
Today, Oscar Grant Jr. told the jury, “The man was killed in cold blood.
“A man committed a crime and he said it’s an accident. It was not an accident,” the father alleged.
Grant Jr. said that when Mehserle testified, “He never even looked at me, he never said he was sorry.”
Mehserle was not present in the courtroom today.
Grant Jr. said he received regular visits from his son and Johnson, from whom he was divorced, through 1998. He acknowledged that his last visit from Grant III was in 2002 but said his son, who had spent time in prison, was awaiting permission from his parole officer to resume visits.
He said his last phone conversation with his son was three days before the shooting.
“I asked him, ‘What are you going to do on New Year’s Eve?’ and he said he was going to celebrate his mother’s birthday,” which was on Dec. 31, Grant Jr. recounted.
“I told him, ‘If you decide you want to drink, then don’t drive,’” the father testified.
Julia Cheever, Bay City News