Former cop tells jury he pulled wrong weapon

2010-06-26 12:01

A former San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (Bart) police officer

testified yesterday that he mistakenly pulled out his pistol instead of a stun

gun when he shot and killed an unarmed black man who was lying face down on an

Oakland train platform.


In an emotional courtroom session, Johannes Mehserle broke down in

tears as he told jurors (members of the jury) in his murder trial that he heard

a pop and thought the Taser (a weapon that fires electrical probes that give an

electric shock) had malfunctioned.


“I remember the pop that wasn’t very loud. It wasn’t like a

gunshot. I remember wondering what went wrong with the Taser. I thought it

malfunctioned,” he said.


Mehserle, who is white, has pleaded not guilty to murdering

22-year-old Oscar Grant on New Year’s Day of last year. The trial was moved to

Los Angeles from Alameda County because of intense media coverage and racial

tensions. Mehserle resigned shortly after the shooting.


Mehserle’s mother was also in the courtroom and sobbed.


Mehserle (28) had maintained a public silence for 18 months about

what led him to shoot Grant until he took the witness stand in a surprise move

on Thursday.


On direct examination by his attorney Michael Rains, Mehserle told

jurors that he struggled to restrain Grant while he was on his stomach and

repeatedly told him, “give me your hands”.


Mehserle testified that he saw Grant putting his right hand into

his right pocket. “I made a decision at that point to tase him. It made me

question what his intentions were.”


After he fired the handgun, Mehserle said he was in disbelief at

what had just happened. He said he heard a lot of yelling, presumably from

Grant’s friends and a crowded train of onlookers, some of whom took video of the

shooting.


“I remember Mr Grant saying, ‘You shot me’,” Mehserle

recalled.


Prosecutors say Mehserle intended to shoot Grant, and that he used

his handgun because officers were losing control of the situation.

Mehserle wore

his stun gun on his front left side during the night of the shooting, while his

handgun was mounted on his right hip.


On cross-examination, Alameda County deputy district attorney David

Stein poked holes in the defence’s contention that poor training may have

contributed to Mehserle’s confusion during the shooting.


Mehserle received a minimum six hours of stun gun training while he

was employed at Bart.


Stein asked Mehserle if he felt he was ill-prepared to be a Bart

police officer.


“No, sir,” Mehserle said.
 

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