*On Thursday a jury in Los Angeles convicted a former San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officer of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of an unarmed man on an Oakland train platform.
[Scroll down for reaction from Oscar Grant’s mother after the verdict.]
Johannes Mehserle was found guilty in the New Year’s Day 2009 killing of 22-year-old Oscar Grant III of Hayward (Calif), who was shot once in the back as he lay face-down at BART’s Fruitvale station.
Involuntary manslaughter typically carries a sentence of two to four years, although the judge could add 10 more years because a gun was used in the killing. A sentencing hearing was set for Aug. 6.
At least five bystanders videotaped the shooting incident in what was among the most racially polarizing cases in California since four Los Angeles officers were acquitted in 1992 in the beating of Rodney King. Mehserle is white, Grant was black.
The jury’s conviction on a lesser charge than murder raised concerns of a repeat of the unrest in Oakland that followed in the initial days after the shooting. There were scattered incidents of violence reported Thursday night.
Unfortunately those fears have been realized to a certain extent. KGO-TV is reporting that police arrested at least 83 people in Oakland Thursday night for failing to disperse, resisting arrest, burglary, vandalism and assaulting a police officer.
Protesters defiled several storefronts along Broadway, with businesses between 12th and 20th streets sustaining smashed windows, sporadic looting, busted doorways and walls newly scrawled with graffiti.
The station says banks in the area were hit hard. Local branches of California Bank and Trust and Chase Bank on Thomas L. Berkley Way near 20th Street sustained smashed doorways and windows. Oakland police and Alameda County Sheriff’s deputies remained at the banks on guard in riot gear at 12:30 a.m.
A Whole Foods Market was vandalized by rioters at around 11:15 p.m., according to witnesses and a security guard still on duty early Friday morning. Again, windows and doorways were smashed and destroyed, but there was not heavy evidence of looting, according to the guard, and the grocery store was still scheduled to open on time at 8 a.m.
By 1 a.m. patrol officers confirmed that the downtown areas were mostly deserted aside from police, and that protesters and residents appeared to have left.
Oscar Grant’s mother’s reaction to verdict: