The case of Oscar Grant, who was shot and killed on New Year’s Day 2009 by Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) officers as he laid prone on the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland, is being reopened by the Alameda County District Attorney’s office, news outlets like CNN and KPIX reported on October 5.
The renewed attention to Grant’s case, which found officer Johannes Mehserle guilty of involuntary manslaughter in 2010, reportedly came from Grant’s family. They asked the district attorney’s office to look into his case again “in the wake of renewed international attention to the murders of Black men, women, children, and most notably the recent torturous killing of George Floyd.”
“The murder of Oscar Grant greatly impacted the county and the state. My office conducted the intensive investigation that led to the prosecution of BART officer Johannes Mehserle for the crime of murder. … We are reopening our investigation. I have assigned a team of lawyers to look back into the circumstances that caused the death of Oscar Grant. We will evaluate the evidence and the law, including the applicable law at the time and the statute of limitations and make a determination.”
Upon receiving the letter, his family held a press conference yesterday to share the news with the media:
Grant’s family wants the second officer on the scene, Anthony Pirone, to face criminal charges for the 22-year-old’s death. Pirone reportedly lost his job as a result of the incident. But Grant’s mother, Wanda Johnson-Morris, told CNN that he should have been tried with Mehserle a decade ago but wasn’t. Mehserle pulled the trigger, but Pirone was accused of escalating violence, kneeling on Grant’s neck, fracturing bones in his face and using racial slurs against him, KPIX reported.
“Charge him for his actions that escalated instead of de-escalating the situation that escalated and caused the loss of my son’s life,” Johnson-Morris reportedly said at the news conference. “If all men are created equal, then we too should get the justice that we deserve.”
The 2009 final report on Grant’s killing explicitly noted that “this incident has racial overtones” and called out Pirone, specifically, for his misconduct and racist language. CNN reported that during the investigation, Pirone lied about the events, which investigators were able to prove with bystander videos and witness accounts. As Grant’s family, more than 10 years later, waits to see what happens, they are also skeptical.
“We’re not holding our breath, but we definitely will be praying that [District Attorney O’Malley] sees the truth in this issue,” Oscar Grant’s uncle, Bobby Johnson reportedly said after the announcement.