New Video Emerges From BART Shooting

New video shows clearer angle of shooting

California Attorney General Jerry Brown was expected to talk Friday  to the president of the California branch of the NAACP about her request that  he investigate the shooting death of Oscar Grant III.

Grant, a 22-year-old Hayward man, was shot and killed by a BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle at the Fruitvale station in Oakland early on Jan. 1 after police responded to reports that two groups of men were fighting on a train.

For the first time since the shooting, one of Mehserle's closest friends, a Napa County Supervisor, spoke out in support of the former officer.

Bill Dodd said he has known Mehserle for nearly 20 years. He told the Napa Register, "Now is not the time to rush to judgment either for or against Mehserle or the victim."

Dodd said that people must remember that two families have been damaged as a result of the tragedy.

But new video also emerged on Friday, which shows Grant cooperating with police and BART riders pleading with officers, including Mehserle, to go easy on Grant, who is laying face down in the video with his hands behind his back. While the video, like the others videos, does not show a gun, the shot can be clearly heard.   

The shooting is being investigated by BART, the Oakland Police  Department and the Alameda County District Attorney's Office.

The NAACP said it is concerned about reports that Grant had not committed a crime or resisted, wasn't armed, was lying on his stomach and was shot in the back.

District Attorney Tom Orloff said Thursday that it will take him two more weeks to finish its investigation and make a decision on whether to  file criminal charges against Mehserle.

The death has led to violent street protests amid allegations from the family's attorney that some of the officers used racial slurs.

The officer remains free and has not been charged with any wrongdoing. And some experts have questioned whether he fired his gun deliberately or mistakenly believed he was using his stun gun instead.

At a rally Wednesday attended by hundreds of people, Shawanda Thomas held a fluorescent yellow sign that read: "Oscar Grant: Murdered! The Whole Damn System is Guilty."

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums is calling for calm. "Even with our anger and our pain, let's still address each other with a degree of civility and calmness and not make this tragedy an excuse to engage in violence," he said. "I don't want anybody hurt. I don't want anybody killed."

Officials say the officer has refused to speak with the transit agency's investigators. He has not spoken publicly about the incident.

Mehserle's attorney, Christopher Miller, declined to comment on the investigations.

Grant's family has filed a $25 million wrongful-death claim against BART, the San Francisco Bay Area's commuter rail system, and relatives want Mehserle to be criminally charged.

"They want justice, but they don't want any more violence," said John Burris, an attorney for Grant's family. "That officer hasn't been prosecuted ... That's why people don't have confidence in the system right now."

Local African-American leaders expressed outrage Thursday at the shooting. And some Oakland residents have alleged it was racially motivated. Burris said he does not have any evidence that Grant was shot because he was black.

"There were racial slurs made by other officers to the group that Oscar Grant was with, but I have no evidence that this particular officer directed racial slurs toward Oscar Grant," Burris said.

The shooting unfolded in front of dozens of train passengers who were returning home after New Year's Eve celebrations.

Police officers arrived shortly after midnight on New Year's Day at the Fruitvale BART station following reports of young men fighting on a train. Grant was one of several who were ordered off the train, questioned and then restrained by Mehserle and other officers.

Videos shot by onlookers show Grant being pushed onto his stomach shortly before Mehserle fired his gun at Grant's back. The bullet ricocheted off pavement and pierced his lung, killing him.

The video footage has led to debate over whether the officer knowingly shot Grant, as the victim's family alleges.

Reports of police officers mistaking a handgun for a stun gun are rare, but not unheard of. In 2006, a sheriff's deputy in Washington state accidentally shot and wounded a disturbed man after mistakenly using his .40-caliber gun instead of his stun gun.

Bruce Siddle, a use-of-force expert who viewed the video clips, theorized that Mehserle was working under stress in a hostile situation and did not realize he was firing his pistol.

"I suspect he thought he was reaching for his Taser," said Siddle, founder of PPCT Management Systems, an Illinois company that trains law-enforcement officers in the use of force. "If he was under stress, he would not be able to distinguish between a Taser and his firearm. You have video footage that seems to suggest that this officer made a tragic mistake."

But George Kirkham, a professor of criminology at the Florida State University who also viewed the footage, said he finds that hard to believe because most Taser stun guns do not look or feel like pistols, and the officer fired in a manner consistent with a handgun, not a Taser.

Kirkham, who works as an expert witness in criminal cases, speculated the officer fired because he thought he saw something in Grant's waistband or pocket that appeared to be a gun or other type of weapon.

"It's not believable that any officer can mix up a Taser and a firearm," said Kirkham, who has examined almost 500 police shootings over the past 30 years. "It's like looking for your steering wheel on the right side of your car rather than the left side."

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