Ex-Transit Officer Who Killed Oscar Grant, Unarmed Black Man, Wins Lawsuit

07/01/2014 05:29 pm ET | Updated Jul 02, 2014
ASSOCIATED PRESS

A San Francisco civil jury today ruled in favor of a white, former transit officer who fatally shot an unarmed, black man in an infamous killing captured on cellphone cameras.

The federal jury awarded no damages to the father of Oscar Grant III, killed by a single shot to the back from BART Officer Johannes Mehserle early on Jan. 1, 2009 in Oakland.

Deliberations had began Monday after weeks of testimony in the racially charged case, the Oakland Tribune reports.

Former BART officer Johannes Mehserle had cried in open court as he described
shooting the 22-year-old as he lay face down on the train platform.

The 33-year-old claims he mistakenly used his service revolver when he wanted to grab a Taser.

Passengers with cellphone cameras recorded the shooting, turning the incident into a national story. Grant's killing inspired an acclaimed indie movie "Fruitvale Station," named for the platform where the shooting occurred.

Oscar Grant Jr. — the slain man's father — filed the federal lawsuit seeking unspecified damages for the loss of the familial association with his son.

"They took the most precious thing in the world to me, my only child," Grant Jr. said in court, according to CBS San Francisco.

This is the first civil suit related to Grant's killing to go to a jury. BART -- short for Bay Area Rapid Transit -- settled suits with Grant's mother and daughter for $2.8 million. Last month, five friends of Grant detained after he was shot agreed to a $175,000 payout.

"I thought he was going for a gun," Mehserle testified, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. "I made a mistake."

Grant Jr. is serving a life sentence for a murder conviction and was imprisoned for all of his son's life. But he's testified that the two had a deep bond, and he expected to strengthen their relationship if he were to have been granted parole.

Mehserle's defense attorney tried to show that father and son were not quite so close. During cross-examination, Grant Jr. was peppered with questions about the young man's life. Did he know the name of his son's school? What high school sports did his son play, if any? Where did he work?

Grant Jr. didn't know many of these details, according to a separate Tribune article.

A criminal court jury convicted Mehserle of involuntary manslaughter in 2010 and acquitted him of murder. He was released in 2011.

Just last month, one of Grant's aunts was killed in a shooting in Oakland.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated where Grant was shot. He was shot in the back, not the back of the head.

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