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SAN FRANCISCO — A white former transit police officer accused of killing an unarmed black man on an Oakland train platform has been arrested in Nevada on a warrant charging homicide, 12 days after the shooting that sparked violent street protests.
Johannes Mehserle, 27, was being held without bail Wednesday under a fugitive warrant issued from California, law enforcement officials said. Mehserle surrendered Tuesday without incident, according to a statement from the Douglas County Sheriff's Office in Nevada.
Messages left late Tuesday and early Wednesday at the office of Mehserle's attorney, Christopher Miller, were not immediately returned.
Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff was expected to announce details of the charges later Wednesday.
Witnesses say Mehserle fired into the back of 22-year-old Oscar Grant while the man was lying facedown on a train platform at a station in Oakland. Grant and others had been pulled off a train after reports of fighting, as New Year's Eve revelers were shuttling home after midnight.
The shooting, captured on cell phone cameras and widely viewed on the Internet, has inflamed long-running tensions between law enforcement authorities and many African-American residents and black community leaders, who have berated BART officials at several public meetings since the incident.
Hundreds of protesters also have taken to the streets calling for the prosecution of Mehserle, with one rally last Wednesday spiraling into violence and resulting in more than 100 arrests and dozens of businesses damaged.
John Burris, the attorney for Grant's family, said he talked to Grant's mother, Wanda Johnson, on Tuesday night and she was delighted with the news of the arrest.
"However it does not bring her son back," Burris said. "But she is happy and pleased that an arrest has occurred."
Jack Bryson of Hayward, whose sons, Jackie, 21, and Nigel, 19, were with Grant when he was killed, said late Tuesday the family also happy that Mehserle was arrested. He said his sons and others friends with Grant that night remain traumatized from the shooting.
Bryson said he was with his oldest son when they got word about Mehserle's arrest via a text message.
"Jackie said, 'Dad they got (Mehserle)! They got him!'" said Bryson, who then called his youngest son, Nigel.
"He said, 'Are you for real?'" Bryson said. "He called me back and said, 'They did get him.'"
Dereca Blackmon, the co-founder of the Coalition Against Police Execution, which was organizing a protest Wednesday, said she was pleased Mehserle was arrested but still wanted to know more details, including for example, why he was in Nevada. Authorities have not disclosed those details.
"Honestly this situation brings more questions than answers," she said.
Douglas County, where the arrest occurred, is 15 miles south of Carson City in northwestern Nevada and includes Lake Tahoe and Carson Valley.
Mehserle refused to talk to BART investigators before resigning his position last week. The transit authority passed on details of its internal investigation to Orloff's office on Monday. The case also is being investigated by the Oakland Police Department.
State Attorney General Jerry Brown has assigned a prosecutor to monitor the case, and the U.S. Department of Justice has dispatched mediators to help avert violent protests such as one in Oakland last week.
BART board member Carole Ward Allen said she was pleased to hear the news about the arrest.
"I want to know why he did it," she said. "We've heard from everybody else but him. While I can't speak for the entire BART board, we want to make this process as transparent as possible."
(This version CORRECTS the nature of arrest warrant to homicide, instead of murder, per the sheriff's office.)
Graphic video of the shooting available below: