Oscar Grant was fatally shot by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle in Oakland, California, United States, in the early morning hours of New Year's Day 2009. Responding to reports of a fight on a crowded Bay Area Rapid Transit train returning from San Francisco, BART Police officers detained Oscar Grant and several other passengers on the platform at the Fruitvale BART Station. Officer Johannes Mehserle and another officer were restraining Grant, who was lying face down and allegedly resisting arrest. Officer Mehserle stood and, according to witnesses, said: "Get back, I'm gonna tase him." Then Mehserle drew his gun and shot Grant once in the back; Mehserle appeared stunned, put his hands to his head and exclaimed, "Oh, my God!" During his court testimony, Mehserle said that Grant then exclaimed, "You shot me!" Grant turned out to be unarmed; he was pronounced dead the next morning at Highland Hospital in Oakland.
The events were captured on multiple digital video and cell phone cameras. The footage was disseminated to media outlets and to various websites, where it was watched millions of times. The following days saw both peaceful and violent protests.
The shooting has been variously labeled an involuntary manslaughter and a summary execution. On January 13, Alameda County prosecutors charged Mehserle with murder for the shooting. He resigned his position and pleaded not guilty. The trial began on June 10, 2010. Michael Rains, Mehserle's criminal defense attorney, argued that Mehserle mistakenly shot Grant with his pistol, intending to use his Taser when he saw Grant reaching for his waistband. Pretrial filings argue that his client did not commit first-degree murder and asked a Los Angeles judge to instruct the jury to limit its deliberations to either second-degree murder or acquittal.Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris filed a $25 million wrongful death claim against BART on behalf of Grant's family.
On July 8, 2010, the jury returned its verdict: Mehserle was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and not guilty of second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter. Initial protests against the ruling were peacefully organized; looting, arson, destruction of property, and small riots broke out after dark. Nearly 80 people were eventually arrested.On Friday, July 9, 2010, the U.S. Justice Department opened a civil rights case against Mehserle; the federal government can prosecute him independently for the same act under the separate sovereigns exception to double jeopardy. The Department of Justice will be working with the U.S. Attorney's office in San Francisco and the FBI.
On November 5, 2010, Mehserle was sentenced to two years, minus time served. He served his time in the Los Angeles County Jail, occupying a private cell away from other prisoners. He was released on June 13, 2011 and is now on parole.
The Oscar Grant Foundation was founded specifically to develop a Family First Responders Crisis Team. To bridge the gap between the extended family’s natural emotional response and that of objective caring and knowledgeable individuals who can make appropriate services and resources available to the families in need. To provide comfort, needs assessment, emergency counseling and resource referral information to assist the family through the initial aftermath of a traumatic event caused by violence and treatment for the emotional injuries sustained at the hands of law enforcement officers.