Thursday, January 08, 2009

BART Shooting Protest Turns Violent, 105 Arrested

Officer Resigns After Fatal New Years Shooting

OAKLAND (CBS/AP) ? More than 100 people are facing charges after last night's protest over the fatal shooting of a Hayward man by a BART police officer turned violent.

A police spokesman says "about" 105 people were arrested on a variety of charges including inciting a riot, assault on police officers and vandalism.

Police say no serious injuries were reported.

Meanwhile, shopowners are cleaning up this morning after protesters
smashed windows of downtown businesses, set dumpsters on fire and
damaged cars.

One police car was among the vehicles damaged by the crowd.

About 100 people are in attendance during a meeting of BART's board of
directors in Oakland this morning, where members of the community are
addressing board members.

Extra BART police officers and Oakland police officers are on duty outside the building.

A few hundred protesters took the streets of downtown Oakland last
night to condemn the shooting and call for criminal charges against
27-year-old officer Johannes Mehserle.

Mehserle resigned from the transit agency shortly before he was supposed to be interviewed by investigators Wednesday.

Mehserle is accused of shooting 22-year-old Oscar Grant of Hayward, who
was lying face-down on the station platform when he was shot and killed
early New Year's Day. Mehserle was one of several officers responding
to reports about groups of men fighting on a train.

Protesters gathered in the afternoon at the Fruitvale BART station
where the shooting occurred last week. It was peaceful at first but
began to turn after a splinter group left that site and marched

Protesters set fire to a trash container and tried to overturn a police
car, smashing the front window. Police attempted to disperse the crowd
and smaller groups of protesters marched to different areas.

Some protesters threw bottles, a window of a fast-food restaurant and
other downtown stores were smashed, at least three cars were set on
fire and many other automobiles were damaged. Police in riot gear threw
tear gas to try to break up the demonstration.

"The crowd started to become more agitated, more hostile, started
throwing stuff at the police," Oakland police spokesman Jeff Thomason
said. "We gave a dispersal order four to five times over a 20-minute
period, then we had our officers go in and start making arrests."

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums went to the protest scene Wednesday night to
urge for calm. He and several council members then led a group toward
City Hall and further addressed them.

"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," Dellums said. "I don't want anybody hurt, I
don't want anybody killed."

Mehserle was scheduled to meet with agency investigators on Wednesday,
but did not show up. His attorney and union representative turned in
the resignation letter.

John Burris, the attorney for Grant's family, said the timing of the resignation was not a surprise to him.

"He doesn't want to give a statement because BART could've ordered him to do so, and if he didn't, he could be terminated."

Now that he is not employed by BART, Mehserle can exercise his Fifth
Amendment right against self-incrimination and not speak to

Mehserle's attorney did not immediately respond to calls for comment Wednesday.

The shooting is also being investigated by the Alameda County District Attorney's office.

Dellums later directed the city's police department to conduct a third
investigation into Grant's killing and to treat the incident as a

"My sense of it is that people for whatever reason do not have
confidence in this investigation as it goes forward," he said. "When I
learned what was happening, I summoned the Oakland Police Department
and said, 'Look, this is a homicide that happened in Oakland, let's
investigate this like we would any other. Whether or not that will give
people greater confidence, I don't know. We'll see."

Grant's family has filed a $25 million wrongful death claim against
BART and want prosecutors to file criminal charges against Mehserle.

Amateur video of the shooting have played frequently on local news
stations, giving even more publicity to the incident. Burris said
Wednesday that one of the latest videos of the shooting shows that
Mehserle did have a Taser on his left side, but he went for a gun on
his right side, instead.

"The video supports the position we are taking and eyewitnesses'
testimony that the officer deliberately went for his gun and there's no
mistake about it," Burris said. "He didn't reach across for his Taser.
He couldn't have been thinking about that. He went directly for his

Earlier in the day, about a thousand of Grant's friends and family
members attended a funeral for Grant, the father of a 4-year-old girl,
at a Hayward church.

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