US cop convicted of manslaughter in shooting

2010-07-09 08:19

A former San Francisco area transit police officer has been

convicted of involuntary manslaughter in last year’s shooting of an unarmed man,

an incident that inflamed racial tensions in the region.

Johannes Mehserle (28), was found guilty in the trial that had to

be moved to Los Angeles because of a racially charged atmosphere in the northern

California city of Oakland, where the shooting took place.

The Bay Area Rapid Transit (Bart) officer was responding to reports

of fighting on the subway when he shot and killed Oscar Grant (22).

Mehserle claimed in his defence that he intended to use his Taser

stun weapon to subdue the man, but inadvertently grabbed his gun instead.

The lethal shooting of an unarmed black man by a white police

officer was captured on video and widely broadcast on television and the

internet, and to violent protests in the Oakland area.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert Perry scheduled sentencing

for August 6.

The involuntary manslaughter charge normally carries a prison

sentence of two to four years, but the jury found that the officer used a

handgun in the crime, which could add to the sentence.

Wanda Johnson, Grant’s mother, said: “The system has let us down,

but God will never, ever let us down.

Crowds gathered in Oakland following the verdict.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that small groups of angry

protesters smashed windows and looted some stores in downtown Oakland near City

Hall, with some people throwing rocks and bottles at police. At least 20 arrests

were made, according to the Chronicle.

The city website said youth centres would be open “as places for

you to express yourself in positive ways” on the verdict.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called on state residents “to remain

calm in light of the verdict and not to resort to violence.”

John Burris, an attorney for the Grant family, said outside the

courthouse that the conviction was better than nothing, but the family was


“We do believe that this was a murder case, a second-degree murder,

and we are surprised by the verdict,” said Burris.

There were no black jurors on the panel that convicted


Olis Simmons, executive director of an Oakland youth group that is

advocating a peaceful reaction, called the verdict a miscarriage of


“It is a walk for him. It is a walk,” Simmons said.

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